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October 2015

New York: Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Big Apple

New York Empire State Building

Legendary actress Myrna Loy once said, "If you’re bored in New York, it’s your own fault." We couldn’t agree with Myrna more. With so much to see and do in New York, there's little chance of boredom; in fact, it's impossible to experience everything New York has to offer in one visit. There are more than enough reasons to visit the Big Apple, but what are the top things to see, do, and know about New York?

You’re about to find out. Let’s first start out by mapping the top 5 “boroughs” and neighborhoods in New York.

The Bronx

The Bronx is where hip-hop was born, where the Yankees became a dynasty and where you can find New York City's leading zoo and botanical garden. The real Little Italy is located in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue. This strip is filled with top-rated restaurants offering authentic Italian cuisine. Other notable Bronx attractions include art deco architecture with over 400 buildings, the largest urban zoological park in the U.S., City Island, which consists of a seaside community and has the look and feel of a small New England fishing village, and so much more. Ilovethebronx.com is a great site for a further look into this popular NY borough. 

Brooklyn

No matter how hip it looks on TV, NYC's most populous borough is best experienced in person. Highlights include live music, Prospect Park, Nets basketball, Coney Island, and Sunset Park to name a few. With fall right around the corner, Prospect Park is a well sought-after destination to admire fall foliage. For the true Coney Island experience, head to Luna Park. The seaside resort overlooking the Atlantic Ocean has been New York City’s playground since the 1880s. Its iconic wooden boardwalk, built in 1923, affords some of the best people-watching in Brooklyn and is home to the original Nathan’s Famous, (which began as a nickel hot dog stand in 1916). 

Manhattan

Classic Manhattan – to sum up this borough, it’s world-class museums, fine dining, unforgettable views, the Flatiron District, Governors Island, Grand Central Terminal, Lord & Taylor, and of course the famous Madame Tussauds. When one visits Manhattan, a visit to Katz’s Delicatessen is a must. It’s a true step back in time. You grab a ticket at the door, wait in the scrum of lines to place your order with the gruff countermen—and their advice: “please don’t try to eat the whole pastrami sandwich in one sitting.” Manhattan is also the most densely populated of New York City’s 5 boroughs. It’s truly the heart of “the Big Apple” and iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building, neon-lit Times Square and the theaters of Broadway.

Queens

Famous for food from around the globe, Mets baseball, U.S. Open tennis, and one of the world’s most diverse cities, in Queens you really can experience it all. The famous song What a Wonderful World, sang by the one only Louis Armstrong was indeed conceptualized in Queens where Louis lived with his wife for more than 40 years. After both of them passed away, his home became a museum and a top attraction in the city for tourists. Nine miles east of Times Square you will find Forest Hills, Queens. It was here in 1954, among the red-brick Tudors and tulip trees, that local boys Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began writing music together and became pop royalty. Not only is Forest Hills rich in history but it’s also home to Classic eats, vintage fashions and sports history.

Staten Island

With coastline attractions, picturesque parks and kid-friendly activities, Staten Island remains an unspoiled paradise right in New York City. A classic visit to the southernmost borough usually involves a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, followed by a quick stroll through the St. George Ferry Terminal and a returning boat ride to Manhattan. There are plenty of reasons to stay in Staten Island for the entire day though! Not only is it the greenest borough, with around 9,300 acres of parkland, but it's also one of the most historically rich, with ties to Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Revolutionary War and the abolitionist movement.

There are exciting things on the docket for Staten Island, too, including a major new attraction in the form of the New York Wheel, a soaring 360-foot Ferris wheel set to open in St. George in 2016. With its surplus of charming neighborhoods, cultural institutions, authentic restaurants and natural reserves, Staten Island provides a scenic daylong retreat from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

As you can see the number of attractions, places to eat, and things to do in New York are countless. Some other top activities and attractions that are home to the “Big Apple” are:

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
FAO Schwartz
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Broadway
Times Square
One World Observatory

Simply put, New York is filled with opportunities that are waiting for you to explore solo, with your partner, or your family. As the famous Alicia Keys sings: Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can't do, now you're in New York, These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, Hear it from New York, New York, New York!

 


Top Pet Friendly Hotels
Drumpf Pets

If your vacation simply isn’t the same without your pet at your side, we understand. It can be hard to leave your pets at a boarding facility or in the hands of someone else, especially if your furry friend suffers from separation anxiety.

A vacation should be stress-free on everyone – so, you’ll be happy to know that more hotel chains are making it easier and less expensive to bring your pets along. The pet-friendliest even extend the offer to other animals aside from dogs and cats to birds and reptiles. So cancel the pet sitter, pack the treats, and bon voyage!

Here is a list of the top pet-friendly hotel chains.

La Quinta

In regards to the pet-friendly scene, La Quinta is one of the big dogs. With more than 830 U.S. locations, only four don’t allow pets. Those locations are: San Antonio Conference/Medical Center, Manhattan and Queens, New York, and Monterey, California. La Quinta also allows up to two dogs or cats per room at no extra charge, which is uncommon, compared to some of the other pet-friendly hotel chains. Their pet policy nationwide is simple:

• Cats and dogs are accepted in all guest rooms (unless prohibited by law).
• Up to two domestic pets allowed per room.
• Housekeeping services for rooms with pets require pet owner be present or pet must be crated.
• No fees or deposits are required

Kimpton Hotels

There's pet friendly, and then there's Kimpton – and they make that very clear on their website. Welcoming not just dogs but any pet that can fit through the door, the boutique hotel chain with 59 properties in the U.S. shows its dedication to furry (and feathery, and scaly) friends by not charging guests extra to bring an animal.

Amenities such as pet beds, concierge lists of nearby pet-friendly restaurants and parks, and a complimentary nightly wine reception where pets are welcome make Kimpton the friendliest of the pet-friendly hotels chains. Not traveling with a pet but need some company? Kimpton will outfit your room with a friendly pet fish for your stay. If that’s not enough, here are some other ways that Kimpton honors your furry pals:

• Your pet is welcomed by name. Sometimes, our Directors of Pet Relations might be there to greet you with a tail wag.
• A selection of hotel amenities and extras including plush pet-bed loaners in your guest room, food, water bowls and mats.
• A concierge list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, parks, groomers and pet boutiques.
• Door hangers alert other hotel guests and staff that your cat, dog, or other beloved pet is in the room.
• Courtesy bags for walking your dog.
• Nightly complimentary wine reception — pets are welcome to join the party!

Best Western
With more than 1,600 hotels that accommodate pets, Best Western aims to keep costs low and options open. Pet-friendly properties allow two dogs (up to 80 pounds each) in each room. Some hotels also allow other pets, including cats, birds, monkeys, and snakes. Best Western hotels charge a maximum of $20 per day, with a maximum per-week charge of $100. Some properties also charge a refundable damage deposit. 

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts 
For the up-scale pet traveler, owners must check out Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. Fairmont has a specific love for dogs. So much that they have their own Canine Ambassador program that brings a little puppy love to lobbies including the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. But pet owners can bring their own four-legged best friends too. Policies vary by property but are clearly outlined online. For instance, at the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown, dogs stay free and are lavished with treats handmade by the hotel's Executive Pastry Chef, while at the Battery Wharf in Boston, pets under 25 pounds cost $25 and receive a pet bed and food and water bowls.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts 
Not all Four Seasons hotels and resorts accept pets, but those that do offer an experience yours won't ever forget. The luxury brand offers small dogs and cats (usually no more than 15 to 25 pounds) in-room amenities like beds, water bowls, and piddle pads, and concierges at pet-friendly locations have plenty of helpful tips about local dog parks and more. Properties that accept animals tend not to charge for the option.

Some other great hotels that truly cater to pets include:

Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe
Drumpf International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
W Hotels
Hyatt Regency, Scottsdale, AZ

 Lastly, if you’re looking to browse pet friendly destinations worldwide, bringfido.com is a fantastic site to check out. You can search top destinations, dog air travel, pet services, attractions, restaurants, events, apartment rentals, and so much more. This site truly brings together everything pet related. 


Uber vs Lyft: Pros and Cons
Uber vs Lyft

If you have never used Uber or Lyft but have always had a curiosity as to how they stack up against each other, you aren’t alone.

We break down the two industry leading ride-sharing services to find out who has the edge in the battle of Lyft versus Uber and we will also help you identify which ride-sharing service is best for you. 

Cost

Lyft and Uber are very similar in cost. While both ride-sharing companies offer a range of expensive, premium rides in luxury SUVs and limos, a basic ride will cost you about the same in Lyft as it will in Uber. While costs vary across different cities for Uber and Lyft, rides are generally $1 to start or $1.50/mile, and $0.25/min.

A common rule-of-thumb in regards to cost is $2/mile or 20-30% cheaper than traditional taxicabs. Rides are slightly more expensive in cities with higher ride-demand like LA, San Francisco, and NYC. It’s easy to see how a simple ride down the street can be affordable and convenient, while a lengthier trip can quickly add up in cost. From an overall cost standpoint, Uber and Lyft come out about equal, so it’s really up to the passenger and their discretion.
Winner=TIE

Surge Pricing

One thing we would like to point out is surge pricing or what ride-sharing companies refer to as “Prime Time.” At high-demand times and locations, the cost of a Lyft or Uber ride can significantly increase. For Lyft, "Prime Time" can increase the cost of a ride by 25 to 200%. For Uber, surge pricing can increase the cost of a ride by as much as 7 to 8 times the cost.

Uber is notorious during this time for having their surge pricing being more difficult for the passenger to notice prior to requesting a pick-up. Lyft's prime time, on the other hand, is not as easy to miss. It’s important you understand that requesting a ride after a busy football game, during Fourth of July weekend, or on New Year’s Eve will most likely cost you more.
Winner=LYFT

Safety

Another aspect of ride-sharing services that people tend to think about is the safety of the ride. Lyft and Uber drivers are required to have their own car with up-to-date insurance and a valid driver's license. You can also rest assured in knowing drivers must pass a DMV background check, criminal background check, and car inspection. For Uber, drivers must be at least 23 years old and have a 4-door car, 2005 or newer. For Lyft, drivers must be at least 21 years old and have a 4-door car, 2003 or newer.

Lastly, both companies use a rating system to quickly throw out any bad drivers from the system. Of course, there is a risk with anyone who steps inside a car, but when compared to the average driver on the road, it's safe to bet that Lyft and Uber drivers are among the safest. It's important to note that Lyft has a much higher percentage of female drivers and passengers.
Winner=TIE

The Experience

If you’re looking for a front-seat, engaging, and fun ride, Lyft is generally your choice. Uber drivers are more likely to open your door and dress well, whereas Lyft drivers are instructed to greet you as a friend with a high-five. In this category, Lyft takes the trophy, as many Lyft rides sport fun themes such as the Harry Potter Lyft, the Trivia Lyft, the Karaoke Lyft, the Cookie Lyft, and many other themes.
Winner=LYFT

The App

For drivers and passengers, both the Lyft and Uber app are accepted as user friendly, and more importantly, functional. Both apps allow you to request a ride, plug-in an address prior to pick-up, watch your driver navigate to your location on a map, and submit ratings with an electronic payment at the end of your ride.

The Uber app allows passengers to see the real-time cost of their ride whereas, the Lyft app tends to have a more fun feel, with fireworks displayed after a high tip is given (the Uber app seems to have a more professional layout). The most recent Google Play Store reviewers gave the Lyft app a 4.3 (out of 5) star review and the Uber app a 4.1 star review. On iPhone's App Store, both the Uber and Lyft app have a solid 4 stars.
Winner=TIE

As you can see, Lyft and Uber tend to be similar in all categories that we have broken down. Both allow you to request a ride, get picked up, and arrive at your destination fast all while paying with your smart phone and voilà, DONE!

 


10 Best Apps For Frequent Travelers
Travel App

When you’re on the go, your best friend and resource can be your phone. With so many apps to choose from, how can you really know which app is the best? If you’re a frequent traveler or getting ready to travel, we have narrowed down the best travel apps that are a must-download.
With the holidays coming up too (yes, summer is sadly coming to an end,) we did a little extra research to nail down the most essential and reliable travel apps.

TripIt

First and foremost, TripIt is FREE. This travel app ranks at our number one spot because it allows you to be your own travel agent and plan every detail of your trip. From car rental to lodging to restaurants—you can construct custom itineraries by hand, or simply forward the email confirmations of your flight, rental car, train tickets, and hotels to plans@tripit.com and watch TripIt construct the itinerary for you. If you’re looking to go the extra mile with TripIt, try TripIt Pro.

TripIt Pro does way more than just organize your travel plans. It also alerts, monitors, notifies, tracks, and shares — so you're always in the know, on the go. Sure, you might be able to find some of these features in other apps and sites, but with TripIt Pro you get them all in one place so you can snag the best seat, find flights, track your points, get real-time flight alerts and notifications. There is a TripIt Pro cost which is $49 a year and the first 30 days are free of charge. For a more detailed comparison chart on TripIt vs TripIt Pro, check it out here: https://www.tripit.com/pro/comparison

Swackett

Swackett is a great app for checking the weather prior to traveling. This trendy app opens with a standard current local weather page that has the basic information, current weather warnings, and seven-day forecasts. If you swipe your finger to go to the next panel, you'll see that report interpreted in several fun ways: fashion (featuring current weather-appropriate wardrobe recommendations), lifestyle (indices that tell you whether it's a good day for fitness, driving, stargazing, sailing, and more), health (indices for allergies, sinus headaches, migraines, asthma), and trivia (world weather records). This app not only gives you the weather but health and lifestyle suggestions too making for a great combination.

Receiving a 4/5 star rating, Swackett is also free and was recently featured as a Best New App on iTunes and on the TODAY Show (NBC)

Wikihood

Not only is Wikihood fun to say, it’s one of the highest rated apps in the iTunes store, and blows away many traditional travel guides by organizing and displaying all of the Wikipedia information for any place in the world. Simply start the app, enable geolocation and it creates a stream of historical buildings, famous sites, public transit, noted bars, restaurants and parks which are sortable by distance, relevance and ratings.

Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire Inc.

No matter where you go – whether you’re travelling for business or for pleasure, chances are you could benefit from being able to find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspots, and fast. Wi-Fi Finder is just the app you need, delivering easy to read maps of your area, with every available Wi-Fi source labeled and filterable by paid/unpaid, type of locale, etc. Over 30,000 people have reviewed Wi-Fi Finder and provided a solid 5/5 star rating.

GasBuddy

For those travelers hitting the roadways, GasBuddy will be your closest friend. Cut your travel costs with this app to find all of the cheapest gas stations close to you. GasBuddy actually displays a map of your area, with the gas stations clearly tagged, and even displays the cost of gas per gallon for each one. This free mobile app has been reviewed highly with 4.5/5 stars and users love the chance to win $100 in free gas every day. With every reported fuel price, you earn 200 points. Exchange 1,000 points in the app for an entry in GasBuddy’s daily draw for $100 pre-paid gas cards. Sounds like a pretty good deal to us! 

Sit OR Squat Restroom Finder

Road Warriors- how many times have you been in a strange, unfamiliar place and needed to find a restroom, and pronto? Any traveler who’s had this experience knows that finding a place to squat can either make or break an outing. Using Sit OR Squat by Charmin, you can:

-Search and view public restrooms near your current location on a map or in a list. Map results with an interactive, location-based map.
-Register using Facebook Connect to Rate, Add, Upload Pictures, and Bookmark bathrooms.
-Rate restrooms by choosing “Sit” (you enjoyed the bathroom) or “Squat” (it could be better) and provide your relevant experience and honest opinions, including pictures.
-Add public restrooms to the database by entering basic location information and optional details like pictures and features.
-Filter results by choosing specific features such as Open Now, Sit-or-Squat Rating, Family
-Bookmark your favorite locations or map out locations for an upcoming trip.

Happy Hours

The true travel bargainer’s dream come true. That is, if you love to find the best deals on a cocktail or appetizer. The app displays the best food and drink deals going on near you at any time each day. You can filter results in a number of ways including by day, time, location, type of cuisine and special features like free wi-fi and outdoor seating. Each city is sponsored by a local zine, for example New York is powered by Village Voice and Austin is powered by GoTime. (Only in the U.S. for now.)

Yelp

A more popular app that you may have already heard of and hailed by some as the best travel application out there, Yelp is a user-generated database of restaurants, bars, gas stations, cobblers, blacksmiths, and more. Search for nearby vendors by type, distance, price and hours of operation. The app lets you browse reviews, add photos, quick tips and draft reviews, which can then be finalized by logging onto their website. Yelp is undoubtedly the largest and most accurate database of local restaurants operating in the U.S., Puerto Rico, France, Germany, Ireland and the U.K.

Currency

For those that love to travel abroad or are traveling abroad for the very first time, Currency is a great app that you WILL want to download. Currency has been the #1 currency converter for iPhone since 2008, launching as one of the first 500 apps in the App Store. Providing up-to-date exchange rate information for over 100 currencies and countries, you can see why it’s fantastic for watching foreign markets. 

Packing Pro

For the organizer at heart, Packing Pro is a mobile app made for list makers. It helps you remember what to pack and can also serve as evidence of what you packed if your luggage were ever lost. It has plenty of sample lists of items to pack for different types of travel, or you can create your own and tick off items as they go into your luggage. The $3 app may seem like overkill to those who have packing down to a science already, but it can be an excellent tool for parents who are packing for multiple family members before leaving on vacation.

 


Getting TSA Pre-check Status

TSA

Have you traveled with someone recently who was TSA prechecked? While you’re stuck in the TSA line, your traveling partner breezes right through without having to take off their shoes. I bet you began thinking “why wasn’t I prechecked?” “How can I become prechecked?” We are here to break down these common questions for you.

If you could get an upgrade from economy to business class, you'd do that, right? Well, getting TSA Precheck is basically the preflight upgrade equivalent, and it's something that every American citizen who flies often should consider getting.

Here's everything you need to know about TSA Precheck.

Travelers can actually enroll in the Transportation Security Administrations TSA Precheck program Over 4,000 travelers per day now sign up, which enables low-risk travelers to move more efficiently through select screening lanes at 133 U.S. airports. TSA Precheck requires you to pay an $85 application fee and complete an in-person interview at one of more than 330 application centers around the U.S. If you’re approved for TSA Precheck, you’ll be given a Known Traveler Number (KTN).

Within a couple weeks, you’ll receive your official ID card by mail. TSA Precheck status is valid for five years and allows you to keep your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, and to keep your laptop in its case and your 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in your carry-on.

For international travelers, even more of a no-brainer is Global Entry (GOES), which allows you expedited security when returning from international trips. The Global Entry application process is the same as TSA Precheck, except for the application fee, which is $100.00.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can apply online then visit an enrollment site to provide identification and fingerprints.

Rules:

• Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. If an applicant has a record of any of the crimes identified in the eligibility requirements, they may choose not to apply, as the application fee is nonrefundable.
• Interested applicants must visit an application center to provide biographic information (name, date of birth, address, etc.), fingerprints and valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. Applicants also have the option to pre-enroll online to provide basic information and make an appointment before visiting an enrollment center.
• Nonrefundable application fee of $85.00.
• After completing enrollment, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail after approximately 2-3 weeks or may check online after five business days.

If you’re truly looking for a more pleasurable, faster travel experience, there are certainly advantages to becoming TSA prechecked. So, plan your travel with confidence and enjoy a more predictable experience.

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