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The hotel industry continues to move toward recovery after years of unplanned losses, though experts believe full recovery remains several years away. A recent report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association notes that room revenue for this year is expected to surpass 2019 numbers on a nominal basis, but when adjusted for inflation, revenue per available room might not reach pre-pandemic levels again until 2025.
The data is perhaps not surprising, given the increased interest in vacation rentals through Airbnb and VRBO during the peak of the pandemic. Many travelers expressed their preference for renting a private home that allowed for distance from others, the ability to cook their food and space for the whole family to gather.
But that doesn’t mean the hotel experience is kaput. Below, industry experts share how hotels are trying to entice travelers to return to these familiar accommodations ― and some good deals you might be able to take advantage of in the process.
Since March 2020, many office spaces have closed for good, while others remain significantly emptier as flexible policies allow workers to come in only a few days a week or as infrequently as they wish.
Business travelers, who previously may have worked out of their company office in a different city aren’t necessarily doing that anymore. And even those who don’t travel for business are taking advantage of the opportunity to “work from anywhere” and explore new destinations once they sign off for the day. As a result, many hotels are now marketing themselves as ideal workspaces for those “bleisure” travelers.
“Since so many people are working from home, we’re seeing incentive programs for hotels,” Jessica Nabongo, travel expert and author of “The Catch Me If You Can: One Women’s Journey To Every Country In The World,” told HuffPost. “They’ve put together different setups around various properties, so people have spaces to work.”
Marriott International’s efforts to reinvent the Sheraton hotel brand began before the pandemic, but the chain’s newly designed lobbies’ focus on communal and private workspaces has become even more relevant over the past two years. Revamped properties in metropolitan areas like downtown Phoenix, Arizona, and Denver, Colorado, feature modern tables and counters, comfortable seating, coffee bars and other new settings that encourage work and collaboration.
“Our lobbies are designed with spaces to gather in small groups for remote work but we also offer enclosed, sound-proof booths for video calls or solo working space,” said Amanda Nichols, a global brand leader at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. “We’ve been hearing from our hotels that guests and locals are becoming regulars in their lobbies, choosing to meet up with clients or colleagues at the hotel while some offices remain closed.”
Non-overnight guests can take advantage of these sorts of workspace options by conducting business from publicly accessible hotel lobbies, or, in the case of Sheraton, by purchasing a day pass for 12-hour access to a private room and on-property business facilities.
Remote and hybrid work models also give people the opportunity to spend much more time in a destination than they could when they needed to be in the office five days a week. Now, instead of a weekend getaway to a new city travelers might plan a trip from Wednesday to Tuesday, working during the weekdays and spending the rest of the time exploring local attractions, restaurants and shops.
Hotels are responding accordingly with deals that encourage visitors to choose their properties for these long-term stays.
“Miami Beach hotels are providing travelers with opportunities to extend their stays through length-of-stay offers and remote work packages, catering to the new bleisure nomad,” said Steve Adkins, chairman of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority. “For example, Dream Hotel South Beach features the ‘Dream Longer’ package, an offer extending up to a 25% discount on stays seven nights or longer.”
Indeed, industry experts have pointed to the extended stay business model as one of the strongest areas of recovery since the onset of the pandemic.
“While rentals could offer a cost-effective option to travelers, especially for large family groups, hotels offer standardized features and services that the customer is more familiar with,” said Mychal Milian, director of complex operations at AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport and Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport. “Branded hotels have a loyalty base of leisure and business travelers that are incentivized by frequent traveler programs that will offer very attractive perks such as room upgrades, late check-ins, airline miles, executive floor access, etc.”
In addition to the usual amenities and loyalty program benefits, many hotels have enhanced their offerings to attract visitors in the age of COVID. Think complimentary spa treatments and fitness classes, restaurants with Michelin-starred chefs, bespoke cocktail bars featuring extended happy hours, live music events and themed seasonal experiences.
“Many hotels are providing more immersive and personal guest experiences to draw visitors back … anything from offering in-room gym equipment to stargazing experiences to set up private art/graffiti tours or culinary excursions,” said Katie Fontana, vice president of communications and PR at Dream Hotel Group. “There’s always been an emphasis on guest experience for any property, but hotels are really stepping it up and becoming more lifestyle entities.”
Ash Tembe, vice president of sales and marketing at AIC Hotel Group, said that his brand has worked to implement exciting offerings that people can experience individually or in small groups after emerging from lockdown.
“Aside from enticing booking deals and promotions, each property curated an exclusive menu of private experiences, featuring cooking classes, tastings, bonfire experiences, dance lessons and more, that allowed guests to book and experience them with the people they traveled with,” he explained.
Even without extra amenities and experiences, the most basic hotel stay can offer benefits that aren’t necessarily available with vacation rentals. Recent hotel ad campaigns have emphasized these differences.
“There’s nothing quite like a great hotel stay,” Nichols said. “Personally, I have relished walking into a hotel and seeing how much people are loving the feeling of being together and traveling again. Walking into a hotel and feeling the energy of the people around you, that feeling of opening your guest room door and seeing a freshly made bed awaiting you, plus the personalized service you receive with every interaction.”
Those in the business are naturally quick to tout the benefits of convenient, personalized service with concierges, room service, bag assistance, housekeeping and even just the presence of a 24/7 desk to help with unexpected maintenance issues or other needs.
Pandemic-era marketing has highlighted the familiarity of the hotel experience, increased flexibility around cancellations, connection with others and dedication to wellness and stress-free travel. Of course, there’s been plenty of focus on health and safety as well, from the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s “Safe Stay” initiative to Hilton’s “CleanStay” program to Accor’s “Allsafe” plan.
“Our main messaging was centered around the strict protocols set forth at each property, giving travelers that instant peace of mind they were looking for,” Tembe said. “We also remained flexible with our policies, adapted to changes in a seamless manner and were proactive with our communication to keep our guests informed.”
Another way hotels are working to compete with the vacation rental model: implementing their own.
“A home rental can be a great choice if you’re looking for more space or privacy during your stay ― for instance, for a big family reunion,” Nichols said. “We know a lot of our Marriott Bonvoy members enjoy using home rentals — part of the reason we launched our own home rental platform, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, was because our research showed that around one in four of our members were already using home rental services.”
She emphasized that the Homes & Villas program allows Marriott Bonvoy members to stay in a home rental, while also redeeming loyalty points or earning more points for future hotel stays.
“A home rental can also give you more choice in terms of location,” Nichols added. “In fact, 40% of the locations where we have home rentals are destinations that are new to the Marriott Bonvoy ecosystem.”
Although the Marriott program tends to cater toward premium and luxury vacation rentals, there are also more affordable rental options from other hotel brands.
“For those who prefer an apartment-style stay, Yotel Miami is the first Yotel hotel property to also feature Yotelpad,” said the hotel’s general manager, Gilberto Garcia-Tunon. “Pad spaces ― ranging from studio to one-bedroom and two-bedrooms ― feature a full kitchen with appliances, dishwasher, washer and dryer, living room with custom Murphy bed, and a balcony with breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami.”
Whether or not these efforts to more directly compete with Airbnb and VRBO are fruitful has yet to be seen, but the reality remains: Hotels want you back, and they are thinking outside the box ― er, standard room ― to make it happen.
If you were scarred by your summer flying experiences, we don’t blame you. Fortunately, the situation is improving, but there are also ways to cut down on the likelihood that you’ll have a bad experience. A big one is being strategic about which day you fly.
We asked air travel experts to share which days they think are the best for passengers in terms of costs, crowds and cancellations. As it turns out, they had similar answers for all three.
“Airfare prices can vary from one day to the next,” said Martin Jones, CEO and travel expert at Airport Parking Reservations. “However, airlines are relatively predictable when it comes to price fluctuations. As a standard rule, the cheapest days of the week to fly are those that are classed as ‘off-peak’ ― Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Put simply, the greater the demand for a certain flight or travel day, the more likely it is you’ll see higher prices. As such, it’s best to avoid flying on busy travel days.
“A lot of people take advantage of two consecutive weekends by leaving for vacation on a Friday and returning the following Saturday or Sunday,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “Many business travelers fly out late Sunday night or early Monday morning and return on Friday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the cheapest days because fewer people are flying. We regularly see savings of 10% or more for flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays compared to other days.”
And regardless of the day of the week, pay attention to other types of peak travel times, like end-of-the-year holidays or school spring breaks. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, for example, is typically one of the busiest and most expensive travel days of the year.
“While Tuesdays and Wednesdays are on average the cheapest days to fly, you should still make sure that is true for your itinerary,” Dengler noted. “Factors such as the time of the year and your destination and departure cities may influence prices. I recommend using Google Flights calendar view before booking your flight to ensure the cheapest days.”
“We regularly see savings of 10% or more for flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays compared to other days.”
– Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer
And contrary to popular belief, he said, there’s no “best” day or time to actually book a flight. The day you fly has more bearing on cost than the day you buy your ticket.
“There are great deals available every single day of the week,” Dengler said. “So you should not limit yourself to only checking airfare prices on a certain day,”
“In addition to being cheaper, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also the best days to fly because there are fewer people at the airport,” Dengler said. “That means shorter security lines, less traffic around the airport and the potential to get on a flight that is not completely full.”
He noted that taking less-than-full flights also decreases your odds of having to gate-check your carry-on bag and generally makes for a calmer experience.
“For those looking for a quieter flight, it is recommended that you travel on off-peak days, particularly Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” echoed Jones. “These days are typically less busy for travel; business travelers usually fly at the start and/or end of the week, whilst those traveling for leisure often wait until the weekend.”
“Over the last few years, flight cancelations have become increasingly frustrating and seemingly unavoidable,” Jones said. “Although any flight is technically liable for cancellation, recent trends have shown that flight cancellations typically coincide with how populated an airport is. Therefore, it could be worth considering travel on off-peak days ― Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Dengler noted that 2022 data from the aviation intelligence company FlightAware shows the fewest cancellations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on average. The third-best record was on Mondays.
“Tuesday had considerably fewer cancellations per week (321) than Friday (826), which is the day with the most canceled flights,” Dengler explained.
He also emphasized that your choice of flight time can be important for avoiding cancellations and delays.
“Generally, flights early in the morning are much less likely to get canceled or experience a major delay than flights departing later in the day,” Dengler said. “If possible, book a nonstop flight very early in the morning. One or multiple connections dramatically increase your odds of experiencing a delay or cancellation.”
Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday isn’t always an option, but if you can swing it, these two weekdays might make the air travel experience feel much more worth your while.
People plan vacations around all sorts of themes, from outdoor adventure to pop culture fandom and wine. In recent years, a newer travel area has become increasingly popular: cannabis tourism.
“Cannabis tourism can be defined as leisure travel done for the purpose of indulging in marijuana use in areas where it is legal,” Sean Roby, CEO of the cannabis-friendly lodging marketplace Bud and Breakfast, told HuffPost.
“It is akin to the wine industry, where travelers gather from all over the world to check out the vineyards in a specific region,” Roby added. “Similar is the case with cannabis tourism, when people visit the places where pot is legal. They can spend some time there, not just indulging in cannabis consumption but also doing other recreational things during the visit.”
As more states and countries legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, so grows the number of out-of-town visitors arriving in search of cannabis-based experiences.
So, what should travelers know about cannabis tourism, or “canna-tourism”?
Below, experts break down the offerings, history, controversy and projections for the future.
As a growing area of the travel industry, cannabis tourism entails an increasingly wide range of activities and experiences.
“Cannabis travel activities today center around well-being,” said Brian Applegarth, founder of the Cannabis Travel Association International and California Cannabis Tourism Association. “Cannabis is approached by travelers as a tool to improve quality of life and enhance experiences while on vacation. Cannabis visitors to a destination are medical-minded, leisure-orientated, or often a blend of both. Today’s travelers often include cannabis and CBD-infused activities like spa treatments as part of their destination itinerary.”
There are also opportunities to learn about the history of the herb with cannabis tours and educational seminars. From farm stays to apartment rentals and weed-friendly hotels, various lodgings have their own unique offerings as well.
“Our top hosts that are now sold out for three to six months in advance are the ones that have a bud bar, a cannabis yoga class, a professional chef that cooks micro-dosed infused meals for the guests, a CBD-infused masseuse on call, sushi and joint rolling, puff and paint, a zip line over a pinot noir and cannabis field,” Roby said. “We’ve seen them all and our hosts are getting very creative, to say the least.”
At a minimum, a basic Bud and Breakfast host might offer lodging that allows marijuana (though perhaps requires that any smoking take place outside in the yard) and can provide information about nearby dispensaries or other recommendations. These accommodations may appeal to those who simply want a safe place to enjoy cannabis as part of their lifestyle ― or even to medical travelers seeking treatment for themselves or their children.
The platform’s “super hosts,” however, go a step further by curating all-inclusive experiences.
“Really, in our eyes, what defines a ‘super host’ is that they are basically a Wikipedia of all things cannabis,” Roby explained. “They have their finger on the pulse of all related activities/events that go well with cannabis and help the guest really experience the entire stay through the eyes of a local within this genre of travel.”
Although cannabis tourism has started getting more attention in recent years, it’s not exactly new.
“I became aware of cannabis travel experiences in Amsterdam in the 1990s ― I remember hearing about The Bulldog and other cannabis cafes and coffee shops that were one-of-a-kind experiences for travelers to enjoy,” Applegarth said. “Going back a bit further with the cannabis travel trend, if you look closely at the history of the Silk Road, the hippie trail, or the surf culture of the 1950s, cannabis was absolutely a central part of it. After California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, the state welcomed patients from around the world seeking help.”
The legalization of recreational marijuana in individual states starting in 2012 helped cannabis tourism grow into a more active sector of the travel industry. In fact, a 2022 report from Forbes estimates that cannabis tourism is a $17 billion industry in its own right.
Cultivar Strategies, Applegarth’s cannabis travel consulting firm, partnered with the hospitality marketing agency MMGY Global to conduct research on the growing field.
“The research revealed that 37% of the active leisure travel audience in the United States are cannabis-experience motivated, up 8% from 2020,” Applegarth explained. “Cannabis, hemp and CBD sales soared during the pandemic as people needed to cope with difficult and unpredictable situations. Today, 70% of Gen Z travelers say that legal access to cannabis while on vacation matters.”
In the U.S., destinations like Oakland, California, have embraced the opportunity to stimulate the local economy through cannabis-motivated travel. The city’s official tourism bureau, Visit Oakland, even developed the Oakland Cannabis Trail to inspire travel plans, support local businesses and keep visitors comfortable and engaged along the way.
“We created a program to capitalize on the growing cannabis travel trend and enrich our visitor experience,” said Peter Gamez, president and CEO of Visit Oakland. “If cannabis is part of one’s lifestyle, visitors want to access products while traveling. This has been good for local dispensaries in Oakland and beyond, as well as product makers across the country. Visitors can now access everything from edibles to health aids to cannabis strands that address different needs and appeal to an array of tastes.”
Bud and Breakfast began in 2002 with a coastal inn in Mendocino, California, and expanded over time to connect a broader number of travelers to weed-friendly accommodations and experiences around the world.
“Because more and more people are using cannabis and wanting it when they travel, this has opened up the door for business owners to fill a gap to accommodate 420 travelers,” Roby said.
Ayanna Lawson believes marijuana-based tourism offers “a lower risk path into a highly volatile industry.” Her company, Front Row Travels, offers curated travel experiences for cannabis users, as well as education for marginalized community members looking to build a brand in cannabis tourism.
“Far too often people try to the enter the industry through dispensary ownership or grow facilities not anticipating the hardships that many owners face,” Lawson explained. Cannabis tourism “is unique in that it touches multiple sectors within the cannabis industry ― farming/agriculture, technology, hospitality, arts/music, etc. The possibilities are endless. Cannabis-friendly destinations such as Mexico, Canada and Uruguay are also generating millions of dollars through cannabis-focused tourism.”
Although there’s been a great deal of progress in the understanding and acceptance of marijuana usage, stigma remains.
“Cannabis travel is a controversial topic because it is still misunderstood by many,” Applegarth said. “Fear or judgment about cannabis itself and cannabis travel and tourism activities comes from those who are uninformed, and are often hyperfocused on smoking and the negative impacts from activated THC overconsumption.”
Roby pointed out that the legalization of recreational cannabis only started within the last decade.
“As with alcohol prohibition, it will take a few years to normalize on a social level but one only needs to look at states like Colorado, California, Massachusetts and most other recreational states to see how quickly attitudes change” post-prohibition, with cannabis becoming “a welcome attribute to the local people and economy,” Roby said.
Beyond giving travelers the opportunity to relax and have fun, the growing cannabis tourism industry can educate people about the drug and help break down the stigma.
“For decades we have been told misinformation and lies about cannabis and cannabis users,” Lawson said. “But people are starting to unlearn what they’ve been told about cannabis. Cannabis tourism can provide the answers to the questions many have through farm tours, workshops, networking events, infused dinners and more.”
Even in states where the drug is legal, marijuana still feels outside many people’s comfort zones. There’s a lingering sense of taboo as it remains illegal on a federal level.
“Over 30 states have a medical cannabis program and over 15 states have said yes to adult recreational cannabis,” Lawson explained. “Despite an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens voting to decriminalize cannabis in some capacity, cannabis is still currently listed as a Schedule I drug and is federally prohibited. So, you essentially have an industry that is illegal and legal at the same time. This conflict is wreaking havoc on the cannabis industry.”
The idea of cannabis tourism also presents a stark contradiction when you consider that more than 40,000 Americans are currently estimated to be incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. It’s tough to reconcile the idea of people languishing behind bars because of weed while others have the privilege to plan vacations around it.
Outside the U.S., there’s further confusion around the implications of recent decisions to decriminalize or legalize marijuana in various countries or regions within them. (And movies like “Midnight Express” and “Return to Paradise” instilled a sense of panic around drugs for many would-be international travelers.)
“A patchwork of complicated laws and regulations regarding recreational cannabis use by overseas tourists means questions remain about the legality of consumption, the transport of cannabis vape pens overseas as well as issues of insurance coverage and health care, during and after travel,” Michael O’Regan wrote in The Conversation in June.
Wherever your travels take you, do your best to research the regulations in place before making marijuana part of the experience.
Despite the lingering stigma and legal confusion, industry experts remain optimistic about cannabis tourism.
“Cannabis tourism will continue to grow,” Gamez predicted. “There are ready, willing, and surprisingly affluent cannabis travelers that prefer cannabis experiences while on vacation. Restaurants, attractions, shops, hotels and more will find ways to incorporate this in their daily offerings.”
Applegarth pointed to the trend of “effect pairing cannabis” that’s taking off in certain sectors.
“Like food pairs with wine, cannabis pairs with activities and experiences,” he explained. “Effect pairing is the art of selecting and consuming cannabis in an effort to optimally enhance an activity or experience. An example of this is a cannabis cultivar that when consumed, stimulates appetite and sharpens the palate prior to enjoying a Michelin star meal while on vacation.”
Applegarth also believes cannabis tourism will continue to center around wellness-related experiences, both in a medical or leisure travel sense.
“Cannabis, hemp and CBD will continue to intersect with culinary, spa, and beyond,” Applegarth said. “For altered state THC-rich cannabis travel experiences, ‘mindset and setting’ will increasingly become an area of focus and high-touch curation, playing up sensory experiences.”
Unlike wine-related travel, which is limited to specific regions that specialize in quality production, cannabis tourism has wider geographic potential.
“Cannabis is everywhere around the world in urban locations, rural locations and everything in between, which means it will exponentially grow much larger,” Roby said. “And there is no shoulder season with cannabis tourism. Our hosts have cannabis activities all year round.”
And with countries like Germany moving to legalize cannabis on a federal level, Roby believes the market potential is endless. He noted that Bud and Breakfast had seen a triple increase in revenue every year until the pandemic slowdown and has finally returned to pre-pandemic levels of record growth.
“Cannabis tourism is just getting started and will grow into the hundreds of billions of dollars within a few years time,” Roby said. “This will occur in conjunction with nations around the world developing compassionate and rational policies towards cannabis and its use.”
Prescription medications are an essential item on your packing list when you’re traveling. However, bringing them can require a little preparation.
Before you head out, contact your physician to make sure you have your meds available for the duration of your trip. You can travel with most medications ― just remember to leave them in the prescription bottle or have the prescription note.
“It’s also beneficial to have a current list from your pharmacy with descriptions of each of your medications on hand, as the drugs may have different names depending on which country you’re traveling to,” said Dr. Kavita Desai, a pharmacist and founder of health and wellness company Revivele.
If you’re traveling by plane, liquid medications are limited to travel-size containers of 3.4 ounces in the U.S. if you have them on your carry-on. Many pediatric prescriptions need refrigeration, so bring ice packs if you’re packing children’s medication, said Dr. Neela Sethi Young, a pediatrician and co-founder of the scrubs brand Jaanuu.
In the midst of packing for your vacation, it’s normal that medications may slip your mind. If you realize while traveling that you forgot your medications, it’s important that you act quickly in order to avoid gaps in your prescription regimen.
“Try your best to avoid stopping your medications abruptly,” Sethi Young said. “This can have serious health effects.”
Additionally, make sure not to change your medication or take something in its place ― e.g., over-the-counter medicine or an alternate drug ― as that can also put your health into danger.
Here’s what you can do to obtain forgotten medication if you’re away from home.
Once you realize that you forgot a medication, get in touch with the doctor who prescribed it. Try calling their office or sending a message via your patient portal as soon as possible.
“Your physician’s office may be able to fax or email a note of your latest medical consultation or summary of your health conditions and medications with dosing instructions,” Desai said.
If you’re traveling domestically in the U.S., they may even be able to transfer your prescription to a pharmacy near you.
The pharmacy where you go to collect your prescription has a record of your medications.
Therefore, if you’re unable to get in touch with your doctor, contact a pharmacist back home so they can locate the exact names of your medications and associated dosing, Sethi Young said.
Once you receive a copy of your medication record, take it to a local pharmacy, as you may be able to purchase your prescription medications there. Make sure to visit either a hospital-based pharmacy or a reputable chain pharmacy and insist on original packaging of the medication, Desai said.
Remember to keep the receipts from your purchase, because you may get some form of reimbursement if you have travel insurance, Desai added.
Each country has its own rules regarding the sale of prescription medications. So if you’re denied medications after showing your prescription from your doctor, you may have to visit a local physician for a new prescription.
Urgent care centers and medical clinics with internal medicine physicians are generally knowledgeable about a variety of health conditions, Desai said. She recommends that you take a list of your current medications and medical conditions from your primary care provider during a visit.
Generally, internal medicine or family medicine physicians who act as general practitioners can prescribe a variety of medications. If the local internal medicine physician is unable to help with your prescription, they may refer you to a specialized physician who can.
The process to retrieve your forgotten medications may seem stressful, but don’t panic. There are medical professionals who can support you and help you gain access to your medicine, Sethi Young said.
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When I read that the singer Ari Lennox has stopped booking shows overseas because aerophobia was “destroying” her health, I understood her dilemma.
The year I turned 30, I lived in New York City with my cello, two adopted tabby cats and my boyfriend, Brian. He and I ran a contemporary classical ensemble. We pieced together gigs and part-time jobs to support ourselves while focusing on presenting works by living composers. After securing artist management, we booked many concerts around the country for the upcoming season. I had also committed to a three-week tour in East Asia with another band. Finally, my dream of performing for a living and traveling the world to play music felt within reach. Yet something stood in my way.
For five years, I had not boarded an airplane because I felt too afraid. Until I was 25, I flew occasionally, but never comfortably. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with panic disorder as a teenager, and flying emerged as a top trigger. Every bit of turbulence made me brace for a nosedive. I trembled in my seat and stared out the window as though fixating on the earth would help the aircraft stay up. During a trip to visit a college boyfriend in Slovenia, I hyperventilated until a flight attendant asked me to lie on the floor with an oxygen mask.
Did I inherit a distrust of planes from my father, who couldn’t travel by air until his 30s? Or did the crash scene in the movie “Alive” trigger my catastrophic thinking? Whatever the reason, I irrationally believed that jetting through the sky put me in danger, and I inadvertently gathered “evidence” to prove myself right. Landing was always my favorite part because, from my distorted view, it felt miraculous.
Without a real need to fly anywhere, I stopped doing it. Instead of catching a flight I’d booked to my best friend’s wedding in Virginia, I rented a car in New York and drove all night to get there in time. The addictive relief I felt overpowered any embarrassment or stress over extra expenses on my credit card. In the years that followed, I took buses and trains from New York to Texas, Nevada, Utah and California to perform one-off concerts. But this kind of avoidance behavior allowed my fear to snowball and my courage muscle to atrophy.
When Brian optimistically surprised me with tickets to the Bahamas (with a secret plan to propose), we got as far as the jetway before I froze. He squeezed my hand and reasoned with me. In desperation, he tried to pull me forward, but I flailed my limbs in all directions and cried “Noooo!” until he let go. I sank to the linoleum floor and propped myself against my carry-on. Brian sat next to me in silence. After our flight departed, he turned to me and said, “I think you need to find some help.”
“I know. I’m so sorry,” I said. My heart ached.
With four months before the tour abroad, I promised to change. Practicing religiously on a flight simulator program made me believe that I could fly a real plane, but I still could not set foot on one. A neurolinguistic programming practitioner in Australia hypnotized me over the phone. Six sessions later, I felt the same. My therapist recommended a support group at LaGuardia Airport. I made some phobic friends, but I still did not fly.
As a last-ditch effort, I booked a $49 “test” flight from New York to Boston to visit my grandma.
A week later, I watched as other passengers departed and the waiting area emptied. I saw an apparition of myself give a ticket to the attendant and walk casually down the jetway. The real me drifted out the airport exit and slid into a taxi. The shabby seats felt soothing, as did the bouquet of dirty leather, sweat and gasoline that invaded my nostrils.
“Nice trip?” the driver asked.
What a sham. I wanted to change myself without taking a risk.
The next day, I backed out of the China tour, knowing they would never hire me again. Then Brian gently suggested I sub out of next season’s concerts.
For weeks, I disappeared into our beige sectional couch, numbing myself with reruns of “Dawson’s Creek.” Vibrant images of my bandmates in Beijing peppered my Facebook feed, while I felt humiliated and powerless. I worried Brian might leave me. Unwilling to accept my failure to conquer a self-created problem, I decided to try once more. A Google search led me to a program at the Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center in White Plains, New York, that ended with a graduation flight. I signed up immediately.
Dr. Martin Sief, a psychiatrist and recovered aviophobe, founded Freedom to Fly to help others overcome their phobias as he had. For six weeks, we met pilots, accepted our fears, discussed panic management and boarded a stationary plane for desensitization. Most importantly, I had an individual counselor, Barbara Bonder, who put me so at ease that I wanted to adopt her as my second mother. Having tackled a different phobia than mine, she knew how to listen intently and when to steer me back on track.
“Leigh, you’re not getting it. You’re justifying your fears,” she said. “Label your anxious thinking — give it a name, if you want. Then tell that voice to shut up.”
I named my “what if” voice “Fred.” Fred wondered if the graduation flight would crash.
“Stop it, Fred. Go away,” I said.
“What will it feel like as your body explodes?” he asked.
“SHUT UP, FRED,” I said. “This is anxiety. I’m not in danger.”
“How can you be wrong if you feel something so strongly?” he asked.
“Because I’m broken. My mind is clearly broken,” I said, out loud, while walking down Broadway.
If I couldn’t trust my own thoughts, feelings and instincts, then who or what could I trust? Nothing made sense anymore. I only knew that Barbara expected to see me at LaGuardia’s Delta terminal at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 20 ― two days from now ― and that I had to show up. I clung to this thought like a castaway to driftwood.
Two days later, I met the class and Barbara at LaGuardia. From the security line, I called Brian, my mom, my dad and my grandma to say that I loved them, just in case. When we reached the jetway, I stopped dead, but Barbara hooked her arm in mine and pulled me forward. This time, I didn’t resist.
A flight attendant welcomed us as we stepped onto the plane, and I just stared in response. Barbara nudged me down the aisle to my window seat and sat down next to me. Immediately, I buckled and tightened my seat belt, and she asked to see my comfort items.
Fat teardrops fell on a photo of Brian holding a puppy. “Hey! Stop crying,” Barbara said. “Look around you. Do you see anyone else crying?” She put her face close to mine. I think of this as our “Moonstruck” moment, like when Cher slapped Nicolas Cage and told him to “snap out of it.”
As the plane bumped and bounced along the runway, I circled words in a magazine that started with the letters “th” ― a way to keep my mind occupied so catastrophic thoughts couldn’t take over ― and read affirming cue cards. The buildings along the horizon began to blur. Then the nose tilted upward, and with a shudder, we lifted from the ground.
For the next three minutes, I closed my eyes and measured time with a 5-5-5 breathing method. Inhale, hold, exhale, repeat. By the time we reached 10,000 feet, the plane’s engines slowed a bit as the upward tilt of its body eased. I opened my eyes and turned to Barbara.
“I’m flying,” I whispered.
“You’re flying,” she said with a grin.
Once we landed, she hugged me and said: “The first 10 times are the hardest. Keep at it.” I hadn’t thought about what came next. Forming a new habit would take repetition over time. This I knew from a lifetime of practicing the cello. I flew every week for nine weeks. Then I flew every month for six months to play concerts with Brian and our chamber group.
Two months later I traveled from New York to New Delhi, India, and even fell asleep. Halfway across the Atlantic, the plane rocked and swayed so much that it woke me up. I looked at my friend, who sat next to me and seemed nervous.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’re riding waves in the air, just like a boat rides waves in the ocean. It’s normal.”
With that, I fell back asleep.
Leigh Stuart is a professional cellist in New York City who has toured the U.S. extensively and performed on Broadway, as well as at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the United Nations, the Library of Congress and Radio City Music Hall. She is a member of Chamber Orchestra of New York, the Brooklyn Chamber Orchestra and the instrumental music faculty of the Berkeley Carroll School. Leigh lives in Westbeth Artists Housing and is working on a memoir. You can learn more about her at leighstuart.com, on Instagram at @lstuartnyc and on Twitter at @leighstuartnyc.
When you think of iconic American cities, Los Angeles inevitably comes to mind.
The City of Angels is one of the most popular destinations in the United States — and for good reason. Whether you’re looking to see movie stars at trendy restaurants or gaze at stars in the sky from the Griffith Observatory, there’s something for everybody.
However, not everyone manages to do LA right. HuffPost asked locals to share the most common missteps they’ve observed from La-La Land visitors.
From misjudging proximity to spending all your time in Hollywood, here are 11 mistakes tourists often make in Los Angeles ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your California travels.
“LA traffic sucks! Plan your day to work with the traffic, not against it. Avoid driving at rush hour in the mornings and afternoons. Schedule your day so you’re somewhere you want to be for a while during these times. It will make the difference between being stuck in the car for hours and being somewhere incredible exploring.” ― Stuart Brazell, a TV host, producer and blogger at Stuart Says.
“A common mistake tourists make when coming to LA is not accounting for traffic. Checking traffic hours prior can really calculate time being spent at each location.” ― Jesi Le Rae, an actor and model.
“Sure, on the map it’ll look like a spot is only 10 miles away. But in LA traffic, it can take an hour to get there. Staying in LA when you plan to visit Disneyland in Anaheim several days in a row will stress you out.” ― Caroline Pardilla, a cocktail and travel blogger.
“The number-one mistake that I see tourists make in LA is assuming it stays warm all day and all night. As a fashion influencer, I’m highly aware of people’s outfit choices, and I very regularly see tourists out on the town at night wearing shorts and T-shirts wishing they had packed some pants or long sleeves. If you’re staying anywhere near the water, it can get very windy and cold at night, so packing a sweater and some jeans is probably a good idea. A Midwest 65 degrees and a West Coast evening 65 degrees feel very different.” ― Parker York Smith, a blogger at The Looksmith.
“A mistake I see is staying in Hollywood for shopping, food and ambiance. Try an area called the Norma Triangle where you can hit Melrose [Avenue] for shopping and restaurants, Santa Monica Boulevard for a string of bars, the West Hollywood public park to sit and recharge, and Sunset Boulevard for a vibe. The Grove is also a good place for a movie, outdoor farmers market and live music. ― Erika De La Cruz, the editor-in-chief at The LA Girl.
“Don’t stay at a hotel in Hollywood. It’s not as cute as you’d hope.” ― Danielle Alcaraz, a model and health coach.
“Only visiting Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. Why take pictures and visit the same old spots everyone else does when LA is so much bigger and more diverse than that? Visit Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, Boyle Heights, Thai Town, Little Ethiopia.” ― Pardilla.
“When renting a car, the parking can be very confusing. Many tourists have been prone to parking tickets. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re able to park at a meter (because it states three different kinds of restrictions), it’s best to try and find a lot instead.” ― Le Rae.
“Know that parking is better paid for, as street signs can be tricky and are different in most locations (permit, short term, etc.).” ― Jazmyn Anderson Creer, a lifestyle blogger.
“LA’s Chinatown is small but mighty, just not for Chinese food. Instead, travel a bit further east to the San Gabriel Valley, where amazing regional Chinese cuisine can be found in cities like Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Temple City and Arcadia. Chinatown is definitely still worth a visit foodwise, just not necessarily for Chinese … [with] one of the few exceptions being Pearl River Deli for fantastic Cantonese dishes. Instead, head to Chinatown for one of the creators of the French dipped sandwich, Philippe the Original — over a century old — or Howlin’ Ray’s for the best Nashville hot chicken in town, or Angry Egret Dinette for innovative Mexican American comfort food!” ― Peter Cheng, a blogger at The Offalo.
“Don’t plan to jump all over the city in one day. Instead, plan to visit one side of town and see a few things within that area because it’s true [that] traffic is bad. Also, having a car is a must, so plan accordingly so you can get around easier. The metro isn’t that convenient yet, as they’re still building the new lines!” ― Alcaraz.
“When I think of travelers and the mistakes they make when coming to LA, my initial thought is misunderstanding proximity of where they are staying to other things they want to do. LA is very spread out, so having an idea of where they are staying in proximity to what they actually plan to do will help reduce the time it takes to get to said places.” ― Anderson Creer.
“Strategically plan your day and break things up into specific areas — for example, West Hollywood/Beverly Hills, Westside/beaches and Hollywood/Eastside. There is so much to see and do in these communities and phenomenal places to eat.” ― Brazell.
“There’s the classic ‘head to Hollywood Boulevard to see celebrities’ mistake that I see repeated. Hollywood Boulevard is usually only tourists on a day-to-day basis. The exceptions are [late-night host] Jimmy Kimmel’s guests making their way to and from the theater across a back alley behind the El Capitan Entertainment Centre, the occasional film premiere and … the awarding of a [Hollywood Walk of Fame] star on the boulevard. If you’re really looking to people-watch, you’re going to want to stay at a local hotel or head to a local restaurant, usually around the West Hollywood area. A good sign that … star-studded guests [will be] arriving is that the establishment won’t allow photos. A few to try: Olivetta, Craig’s or BOA Steakhouse.” ― De La Cruz.
“Celebrities aren’t easy to spot. You won’t see celebrities walking around Hollywood and Beverly Hills or from the top of a tour bus. But mostly they’re hard to spot because when they are out and about at some store or restaurant, they are usually dressed down and look like regular people.” ― Pardilla.
“Stay authentic! Stay away from chain restaurants and try the flavors of LA. Los Angeles is such a melting pot of different cultures, which makes it the perfect city to try new restaurants. Look into family-owned restaurants for more decadent treats. You never know where you’ll find a diamond in the rough.” ― Itzel Lovato, a blogger and model.
“Do not go to a chain restaurant for a burger. Los Angeles has so many options worth writing home about, like the iconic Apple Pan.” ― Pardilla.
“Don’t miss out on an epic movie experience at Hollywood Forever Cemetery or a film with a live orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl.” ― Le Rae.
“Don’t spend all your time in areas that are too central to tourists. Some ideas of places to go are the night market in Thai Town, Korean BBQ followed by karaoke in Koreatown, or having a ‘sound bath’ in Malibu!” ― Lindsey Baruch, a photographer and blogger at Lindsey Eats.
“Instead of booking a Hollywood tour or trying to spot a celebrity, do a workshop! LA is full of amazing, creative people that have so much to share. Find something you might enjoy to explore and discover something new about yourself while in a new city. Find a wellness center or meditation studio that offers workshops, take a pottery class or visit a local farmers market. Things like this will immerse you into the culture and really give you a sense of the community.” ― Alcaraz.
“One mistake is going to the beach to just sit there. Stroll along the shoreline from Venice to the Santa Monica Pier. You can even bike or Rollerblade from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach.” ― Pardilla.
“When a restaurant name says it’s in Hollywood or Beverly Hills or even West LA, it may not be where you think it is. Check the map. A friend booked a dinner at a restaurant that said it was in West LA when it really was all the way by LAX [the Los Angeles International Airport].” ― Pardilla.
Quotes have been edited and condensed.
Two and a half years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still feeling its effects on the travel industry in big ways.
This summer has been one of the most frustrating periods, as travelers have had to navigate canceled flights, lost luggage, escalating prices and a general sense of chaos. But will this trend persist into the holiday season?
Below, experts share their predictions for holiday travel this year ― as well as advice for keeping the stress to a minimum.
“While I still think 2022 holiday season travel numbers will lag behind 2019, they will be well above 2021 and 2020 totals,” Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer, told HuffPost. “The majority of COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, which really puts the virus out of a lot of people’s minds when they consider traveling. On most days, TSA checkpoint numbers are only slightly behind the equivalent day from 2019.”
There was massive demand for travel this summer, and experts expect it to continue into the holiday season ― or, at least, to be greater than in 2021.
“The past two holiday seasons were surprisingly robust for being solidly in pandemic times, but one problem that prohibited even more families from traveling was there was still no vaccine for 5 and under,” said travel host Samantha Brown. “We now have that vaccine, so families with younger children will feel it’s safer to fly.”
Another difference between last year’s holiday season and the upcoming one is awareness of the COVID-19 omicron variant ― and the recently authorized booster shots aimed at protecting against it.
“Last year in early December, omicron spread and a lot of people changed their travel plans,” said Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy. “Barring any unforeseen circumstances or new variants, people are feeling comfortable traveling again and the world has reopened dramatically since last year.”
“Unfortunately, the demand this summer exceeded the supply of pilots, so cancellations and delays were common and frustrating for millions of Americans,” Dengler said. “I think that demand is going to continue into this year’s holiday travel season, which is going to cause more cancellations and delays around Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Dengler predicted that 2022 holiday cancellations will stem more from a lack of pilots and other staff than from COVID-related sick calls, as was the case in 2020 and 2021.
“There is no quick fix to the lack of pilots, so it will be an issue for the holiday season,” he emphasized.
“We are still recovering from the summer of travel hell, and even though operations have returned to normal in terms of cancellations, delays and luggage not showing up, I still have zero confidence in the airlines having it together for … the day before Thanksgiving, aka the busiest travel day of the year,” Brown said. “If you can avoid taking a plane on Wednesday, [November] 23rd, do it.”
Because Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, the air travel patterns are easy to predict. Experts maintain that the Wednesday before Turkey Day, and the Sunday after it, are the busiest days for flying ― and therefore the most likely to involve some headaches.
“Fly Tuesday and Saturday ― or fly Thanksgiving Day, which is very quiet,” Brown urged. “Or better yet, host Thanksgiving and have everyone come to you!”
“With Christmas Day on a Sunday, flights on the Friday and Saturday just before will be packed,” said Sheldon Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois who specializes in operations research. “Consider flying during less crowded days.”
Several experts also predicted that Dec. 22, a Thursday, will be a busy flying day. Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, a Monday and Tuesday, are expected to be the worst days for return flights.
“We encourage those who can work remotely to avoid the busiest travel days by extending their trips and working from their destination for a few days,” said Melinda Haughey, CEO and co-founder of the interactive mapping service Proxi. “They can then spend evenings exploring hidden gems in their destination city or catch up on quality time with friends and family.”
The past two holiday seasons saw a higher percentage of domestic travel than in pre-pandemic times. However, Kelly believes we’ll see more people taking international trips again for their Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah breaks.
“I also foresee a surge in international travel, especially to places in Asia as those destinations continue to reopen,” he said. “People are eager to take those aspirational trips. On the flip side, prices will start to rise again too.”
“I strongly advise those looking to travel this coming holiday season to book their flights as soon as possible,” Dengler said. “There are only a limited number of flights and seats around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the desirable routes sell out quickly.”
He emphasized that prices will only increase as we get closer to the holidays.
“Ideally, you have your holiday flights booked already, but there are still good deals available,” Dengler said. “Aim to book Thanksgiving and Christmas flights by the middle of September. At the latest, book Thanksgiving flights by Halloween and Christmas flights by Thanksgiving, but even then you will be paying a premium.”
Even if you aren’t traveling by plane, the same wisdom applies to other forms of transit like trains and rental cars. Since demand is high around the holidays, it’s best to lock in a solid rate as soon as possible, as prices will only climb the closer we get to that peak travel time.
You can’t control whether a flight will be canceled or delayed, but there are things you can do to better your odds of a smooth travel experience.
“If you must fly, book the first flight out,” Brown said. “It’s miserable waking up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport, but that first flight is the one that is most likely to leave on time. Any other disruptions, weather, mechanical difficulties start to compound as the day grows older.”
In addition to booking early morning flights, Dengler recommends opting for nonstop whenever possible.
“Nonstop flights are better because your odds of experiencing a delay or cancellation increases with each connection,” he said.
By now, we’ve all seen the reports of lost and delayed luggage chaos around the world. Although things have improved a bit, the busy holiday season could involve a revival of that unfortunate phenomenon, so you may want to carry on your presents to avoid Christmas-morning disappointment.
“I recommend avoiding checking your luggage if possible,” Dengler said. “Airlines struggled with losing and delaying bags during this past summer’s busy travel season. The lines were also extremely long at some airports to check your bag, which adds to the stress. I think airlines will face similar issues for the holiday season, so carry on your luggage if you can.”
“In 2020 we saw decreased travel, in 2021 we saw more travel but anxiety about how to travel safely, and in 2022 we believe that travelers will go into holiday travel prepared for an uncertain experience,” Haughey said. “We expect travelers to adapt the way that they travel, including willingness to pay for ways to alleviate this stress ― like buying Clear or arriving at the airport early, then splurging on lounge access.”
The frustrating air travel scenarios that came to pass in high numbers this summer have given people very low expectations for a pleasant experience.
“Expect the unexpected, so if things go smoothly, you will be pleasantly surprised,” Jacobson said. “If they do not, roll with each punch. Book flights with ample connection times. Give yourself sufficient time to get through airport security. Enroll in PreCheck, as an efficient way to traverse airport security. Pack light, and wrap presents after you arrive at your final destination.” (For a fuller explanation of PreCheck and Clear, see here.)
Kelly recommended being proactive and using tools to stay on top of your itinerary.
“Track your flight via FlightAware to see where it’s coming from,” he suggested. “ExpertFlyer is another great tool to check and see if there are other flight options out there or upgrades. Be sure to book ahead and utilize Google Flights to see when airfare is higher or lower than average. Lastly, use your frequent flyer miles when possible, to give yourself maximum flexibility in the event you need to change or cancel your trip.”
And beyond preparing for travel logistics, passengers can continue to do their part to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading COVID by wearing face masks at travel hubs like airports and train stations ― as well as on the planes and trains themselves. Similarly, if you’re exhibiting COVID symptoms, consider taking a test before you head out the door, to help protect staff and fellow passengers.
As we head toward the holiday season and new year, passengers would benefit from being able to feel more secure about the reliability of air travel.
“I personally would like to hear from the airlines with a postmortem of what happened and the specific steps they are taking (hiring pilots, ground crew, reducing flights) that will ease, if not make these problems disappear,” Brown said. “And it does need to be specific, not just saying ‘we are doing all we can.’ The number of passengers showing up every day to fly should not have come as a surprise to them, and yet it appeared they were caught totally off guard.”
No matter how frustrating things get, try not to take out your anger on the employees at the airport and on your flight. They do not control the schedule or corporate policies, and they likely share many of your frustrations. Patience and kindness go a long way.
“Remember that the airline personnel working during the holidays are helping you enjoy your holidays, while they are missing their own,” Jacobson urged. “Thank them for their service.”
“Every holiday season is a challenge for the airlines,” Jacobson said. “The six-week period between Thanksgiving and the New Year have surges of demand with mostly people that are not frequent flyers.”
Although the unprecedented crew shortages and flight disruptions have posed a challenge this summer, he has some hope for the upcoming months.
“With ample time to meet demand, the airlines should be forewarned to ensure that crews are available and schedules are solidified,” Jacobson said. “I am optimistic that they will deliver on that front, though early winter storms can derail even the best laid plans.”
Kelly similarly believes there might be more hiccups this holiday season compared to last year’s, but he shares some of Jacobson’s optimism.
“I’m hopeful things will get better as airlines and airports regroup this fall,” he said. “But I still suspect some busy airports like London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol to have some challenges.”
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