Six Best Cruise Lines for Winter

Hit the seas this winter to experience exotic locations around the world. In the past, traveling by ship was the main mode of transportation when covering long distances. Thousands of years of innovation have blessed us with luxury cruise ships that meet every expectation and satisfy every desire. Whatever your ideal voyage looks like, check out these six cruise lines to inspire a winter sailing of your choice.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line keeps it lively with its festive atmosphere and diverse entertainment options, with a large fleet of ships so there are many itineraries from which to choose with destinations including the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe. Carnival is known for being the cruise line for “every cruiser” that wants to have an ultra-fun escape without breaking the bank. Waterslides, sport courts, casinos, piano bars, stand-up comedy, and nightclubs make it the perfect experience for any age group. Carnival Cruise Line is highly suggested for people taking their first cruise.

Royal Caribbean International

Despite having “Caribbean” in its name, Royal Caribbean offers cruises to 269 destinations across 77 countries, on six continents. The cruise line’s fleet of ships is as diverse as its menu of destinations. Royal Caribbean offers large ships for entertainment and excitement, as well as smaller ships that are more intimate and relaxing. Their fleet offers a wide range of fun activities that include rock-climbing walls, zip lines, water slides, ice and inline skating, surf and skydiving simulators, plus many more.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line embodies a laid-back atmosphere that caters to the “freestyle cruising” approach. You won’t find any dress codes or fixed-dining times on their ships, but you will find plenty of on-board entertainment for the whole family. The “freestyle dining” system allows you to eat culturally-inspired cuisine on your own time. Norwegian’s 15-ship fleet sails around the world, with popular destinations that include Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and South America.

Holland American Line

Holland America cruise line is built on luxury and quality. Cooking and mixology workshops, photography classes, yoga and pilates classes, or relaxing in the spa are some of the enriching experiences on-board. Voyages last from one to 111 days, with global destinations like Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America, Antarctica, and more. Holland America prides itself on quality and comfort, so if you are someone seeking opulence, this is the cruise line for you.

Princess Cruises

From very modest beginnings in 1965 with one ship cruising to Mexico, Princess Cruises has now become one of the most premiere cruise lines in the world. Sail around the world to destinations that include Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean. Whatever voyage you choose, Princess Cruises has created an experience on every boat filled with a refined atmosphere and personalized service.

Celebrity Cruises

Although Celebrity Cruises has a smaller fleet than its competitors, each of its ships feature beautiful upscale designs, innovative gourmet cuisine, and exceptional customer service. In short, if you are looking to get the most for you dollar, Celebrity Cruises is without question going to be one of the best options. The cruise line is currently in the process of constructing a one billion dollar ship to add to its existing extravagant fleet, so keep an eye out near the end of 2018 when rooms become available for its maiden voyage!

If you’re among those who are considering a first cruise, you won’t be disappointed with any one of these fantastic cruise lines. From luxury and relaxation, to excitement and energy, these massive ships offer something for every type of traveler – you can’t go wrong!

 

Ready to cruise away? Check out Bonwi.com for any accommodations before or after your departure. And stay tuned to our blog to hear from our experts on all elements of travel as they share their personal experience and knowledge, which spans everything from fascinating must-see locations, to practical and informative suggestions.

Top Winter Villages

Do you become active and engaged during winter months, or do you prefer to hibernate? Do you like to shop, be outdoors, or cuddle by a fire? The small-town lifestyle of American villages offer a way to relax and do whatever you like at a slower pace. After all, what is better than a getaway that leaves all the hustle and bustle behind? We’ve handpicked a few winter wonderlands that have something for everyone, so lean back as we take you through them.

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Vail offers world-class skiing in a town that encompasses all the charm of a European alpine village. This city lives up to its reputation as a top entertainment and shopping destination. The slopes at Vail offer a wide range of terrain from kid-friendly to expert. Skiers with children love Vail because kids can attend a thorough ski school as they indulge on the resort’s diverse terrain. At day’s end, sip hot cocoa while walking the village’s cobblestone streets, perusing its wide selection of restaurants.

Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires’ winter is what inspired the picturesque romantic white Christmas scenes we see around the holidays. New England is full of dreamy small towns with classic red barns, open roads, great food, and friendly people. Look anywhere for scenery that appears right out of a painting. Make sure to stop by the Blantyre Hotel to see the 110-foot decorated Christmas tree. You can rent rooms with a traditional fireplace and four-poster beds. Step outside into the sparkling snow and enjoy a sleigh ride.

Cannon Beach is located on the beautiful coast of northern Oregon. It’s a city that remains calm and quaint in spite of its relatively close proximity to its neighboring city of Portland. You can find arguably the best coffee in the United States around any corner. Cooler weather during winter months make prices favorable to visitors. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway with a view, Cannon Beach should be at the top of your list. A stay at the Blue Gull Inn will have you situated right near the famous Haystack Rock.

This desert oasis takes on a new feel in the winter. There’s something magical about seeing Arizona’s fiery-red mountain tops dusted in sparkly snow. Winter is the best season to save on hotels and avoid crowds. Driving through the canyons, catching a hot-air balloon ride, or gazing at the unobstructed night sky are just a few of the many relaxing things to do here. Are you looking to get away for some peace and quiet? Sedona, Arizona is waiting for you.

Located at the foot of California’s Sierra Mountains, this popular ski village hosts visitors from around the world for some of the best winter sports west of the Rockies. Mammoth Mountain overlooks Lake Tahoe with a view of the surrounding Sierra peaks. Last year Mammoth Mountain had the longest ski season in California’s history, 270 days, getting 51 feet of snowfall at the basecamp. The skiing is great for all skill levels. There are three amazing lodges we recommend: Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge, and Eagle Lodge. Each are luxurious and cater to your every desire. Be sure to grab an après-ski beer at one of the village’s handful of micro-breweries.

Visit Bonwi.com to start planning your winter retreat. You’ll be packing your mittens and sharing hot chocolate by the fireside soon enough!

Achieve Your Travel Dreams

Are there places you would love to visit? How long have you dreamt of doing so? With these tips, turn your travel dreams into reality.

No Excuses

Fill in the blank: I would like to travel more, but I cannot travel right now because _____. Write down your excuses and look at them. Acknowledge that when you make excuses, you are using your own power against yourself. Remember, many people with similar challenges are already traveling in spite of those challenges.

Pick Your Destination

Choose one specific place to travel to, such as a city or island. Pick your next destination based on where you most desire to visit next. Make the decision process no more difficult than choosing your next meal. There are many benefits to traveling the world and escaping your comfort zone. You’ll enjoy the adventure that comes with experiencing unique cultures, meeting different people, seeing new places, and creating lifelong memories.

Create Certainty

Place a pin in a paper map and do not move it until you have been there and back. You are going to this place, and you are going to start making it happen now. This is your reality. If you want to visit this place, nothing can stop you from getting there. Whatever challenges present themselves, you will overcome them. You cannot be stopped.

Obsess Over Your Destination

Use Google Maps to look up your destination. Study the layout of the land. Start thinking about what you will see and do while you are there. Know that soon you will be there seeing those places firsthand. Turn your favorite photo of the destination into a new wallpaper on your computer or mobile device. The reason this obsession process is important is that it gradually moves your goal from the realm of fantasy into the realm of reality.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

 

Check out Bonwi.com – the best travel deals so you can travel more often, everywhere your heart desires!

Smart Phone Apps for Travelers

Smartphone and Tablet Apps can be useful before and while traveling. You can greatly extend your device’s usefulness by downloading additional tools, such as restaurant reviews, translators, and transportation apps. These apps are available on most Apple, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry platforms.

Preparation

These apps will help you prepare for your trip before heading out. Packpoint is an app that automatically generates a checklist for you around weather forecasts, particular activities, and general necessities to help you pack. XE Currency is one of the most robust currency converter apps available. It is constantly updated to offer live exchange rates for “every world currency and precious metals”.

Getting Around

You’ve arrived at your destination, but how do you get around? The following apps will help. Uber is the global leader of ride-sharing apps that allows you to request a car directly after choosing from an assortment of differing vehicle rates and fare quotes. Google Maps is one of the best navigation apps around. Citymapper is one of the best tools to find and utilize public transportation.

Local Knowledge

These apps suggest the best-rated places to eat or visit. TripAdvisor allows you to quickly find millions of reviews, opinions, videos, and photos pertaining to just about anything related to your trip. Yelp has become the official Yellow Pages of restaurants and bars. It’s an excellent resource for when you’re looking to hit some of the best spots in the country you’re visiting.

Translation

These apps help you to translate on the go or brush up on your language skills. Google Translate provides translations for more than 103 different languages. Either type something in a foreign language, or have someone speak clearly into your microphone for an immediate translation. Duolingo is a well-designed language learning app. Just like a computer game, the app guides you through levels that help you learn the basics, or keep yourself fresh on the grammar and vocabulary of a foreign language.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

 

Ready to get out and explore? Check out Bonwi.com and start planning!

Top Family-Friendly Resorts

Planning that family vacation? Looking for a resort that is both relaxing and kid-friendly? Check out some of our top picks of resorts that makes time off with the kids as good as it gets.

Beaches Resort Villages & Spa
Turks & Caicos Islands
This family favorite (voted a T+L World’s Best Hotel for Families) has a Scratch DJ Academy, a 45,000-square-foot water park, a surfing simulator, and 12 miles of white-sand beach.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa
St. Lucia
St. Lucia’s largest water park, with slides, waterfalls, and a lazy river. The resort hosts a kids’ club, family karaoke, zip lining, tree house, mini rock wall, and movie nights.
Tyler Place Family Resort
Vermont
The property hosts up to 70 families weekly, but what sets it apart is that there are nine age-specific camps designed for infants and kids up to 15 years old.
Ski Portillo
Chile
Amenities include: seven days of lift tickets, four meals a day, fitness center, pool, yoga classes, a kids’ game room, climbing wall and movies. Free childcare is available for kids ages 4-7.
Paradisus La Perla
Mexico
Milk & cookies at turndown, mini-bathrobes, a kid-friendly mini-bar, and complimentary walkie-talkie or local cell phone are just some of the thoughtful touches you can expect.
Skytop Lodge
Pennsylvania
You can zip line through the Tree Top Adventure Course, play laser tag or paintball, set off on a GPS-guided nature hike, or, in the winter, go dogsledding with the resort’s own team of huskies.

 

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel. And don’t forget to start planning your kid-friendly vacation with Bonwi.com.

Traveling with Children like a Pro

Pulling off a great family vacation requires a lot of planning, patience and effort. You’ll get better at all this, the more you travel. Here are the top tips for having a great time while traveling with children.

Give Them a Camera

Giving a child their own (robust, child-friendly) camera encourages them to observe their surroundings and focus on what interests them. You might be surprised at the results from their knee-high view.

Digital Toy Box

Thanks to child-friendly apps, there’s no need to cram a toy box into your hand luggage when travelling by plane. By all means take a book and a magic scribbler, but the most compact form of entertainment is a device loaded with apps and games.

Invest in a Child Locator

Children aren’t fans of reins, backpacks with a leash. Keep tabs on them anywhere with a child locator. The child wears a small “electronic device” (strapped to a belt or shoe) and you keep the transmitter. If you lose your child, set off the alarm and follow the sound to find them.

Book Ahead

Trying to retain the spontaneity of travel before having children doesn’t pay off. If you arrive at your destination to find you can’t get a room and have to hit the road again with tired, hungry children melting down in the backseat.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

Looking for a deal so you can spend more on the kids? Check out Bonwi.com!

Reward Points Battle: Hotels.com vs. Bonwi

Las Vegas hotel rewards

hotels.com rewards compared to Bonwi

If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.

We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.

How the Programs Work

With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?

Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Las Vegas hotel rewards

If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.

In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.

If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.

At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas  and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.

Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.

New Orleans hotel rewards

Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked  the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.

With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:

  • 3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
  • One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
  • Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
  • A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.

Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.

The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.

Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

There’s nothing better than giving gifts that people will really use, especially for friends and family who frequently travel. With the holidays fast approaching, this week’s Travel Tip Tuesday focuses on gift ideas that make travel easier and more enjoyable for those in your life.

Travel Books

Before visiting a new destination, most travelers love to read up on where they are headed. Travel books are full of information about local highlights, directions/ways on how to reach them, and what to expect upon arrival. You might also consider including a day pass or membership to a local museum alongside the travel book/guide.

Travel Clothing

One pro travel tip is to be prepared for anything, and clothing is no exception. Whether the person receiving your gift will be roaming the streets of London or the trails of Machu Picchu, brands like L.L. Bean and REI design travel-focused clothing with features such as hidden/extra pockets, wrinkle-free fabrics, and easy layering. Consider gifting a lightweight and wind-resistant jacket, fashion forward all-terrain footwear, or a comfortable pair of jeans that can handle the wear and tear of being on the road.

Dry Bag

You’d be surprised how handy a dry bag can be while traveling; particularly for the travelers in your life who enjoy kayaking trips, hiking, or any kind of adventure travel. A dry bag keeps clothing, food, electronics, or anything else sealed airtight. It’s an inexpensive gift that can prove invaluable during a sudden thunderstorm.

Travel Towels

Not all towels are made equal. A quick-dry travel towel is essential for most backpackers and hostel goers because they’re easily repacked without dampening the rest of your belongings. Full-sized travel towels take up much less room than regular towels because of their micro-fiber design.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are essentially small bags that are packed separately before anything is added to your suitcase. They also help keep everything organized and protect belongings from water damage, spilled shampoo or toothpaste, etc. They can be purchased individually or as a set and are an ideal way to keep any suitcase neat and tidy. Clothes and other travel items can be grouped together to make unpacking and repacking a breeze.

Portable Games & Journal

Small games can offer a little entertainment for a long plane, train, or bus trip. Not only will they help pass the time, they can also give you a reason to get to know the passengers sitting nearby if you invite them to join. A journal is also a great gift idea, as it allows travelers a means to pass the time and keep record of their new experiences made along the way.

While you’ve got many gifting options this coming holiday season, just remember that a travel gift will go far, and remind them of you when they’re away.

 

Stay tuned for the latest edition of Travel Tip TuesdayHear from our experts on all elements of travel as they share their personal experience and knowledge, which spans everything from fascinating must-see locations, to practical and informative suggestions.  Ready to explore? Let Bonwi help ensure that your next getaway is the best one yet.

Best Time to Book December Travel

When is the best time to book December travel? It’s a simple question, but the answer depends on a few things, namely your plans, your flexibility, and the type of travel you’re taking. Because December is a busy travel month, finding the best rates requires a strategy. With that in mind, we’ve crunched historical travel data for December so as to provide you with better insight on how best to book travel in the coming months.

Flights Vs. Hotels

The first thing to consider is the difference between airfare savings and hotel savings. Airlines have become increasingly adept over the years at ensuring that every possible seat on the plane is filled before takeoff. Hotels, on the other hand, have far more flexibility in their booking availability, leaving ample opportunity for last minute deals.

The Best Time To Book December Flights

Some travelers are still under the impression that the earlier you book a flight, the better rates you’ll get. We found that 20% of travelers in 2016 booked their December flights at least 70 days before their departure date. On average, these passengers paid 70% more than those who purchased their tickets during the optimal booking window. It’s worth noting that longer-haul flights tend to get booked earlier and that this plays a part in higher prices, since the best deals are rarely found when booking more than 70 days in advance.

We also know that booking flights last-minute can be costly. Despite this, nearly 10% of travelers waited until just 10 days before booking their flight, and we found that travelers who booked flights within a week of their departure date paid nearly 50% more than those who booked during the optimal booking window. So what is the optimal booking window? Travelers booking flights from 60 to 70 days prior to departure saw the lowest ticket prices.

The Best Time to Book Hotels in December

On the contrary, we found that it pays to wait when it comes to hotels. Last December, the lowest hotel rates came to those travelers who booked from 1 to 25 days before their check-in date. Those looking for rooms over New Year’s Eve, saw rooms become substantially cheaper over the last few days leading up to the holiday – as much as 40% less than the average price 30 days out from check-in. Booking hotels last-minute can pay off, but just remember:

  • Exceptionally popular destinations, like Manhattan over New Year’s Eve, may book-up quite early. By comparison, a beach cottage on California’s Central Coast could likely offer a fantastic last-minute deal.
  • The number of travelers booking last minute hotel rooms (1 and 2 days out) skyrockets, meaning you some of the better options may sell out quickly. Keep an eye on availability.
  • Being flexible on the type of hotel and its location can go a long way. A mid-range hotel may offer a great rate, buy a luxury hotel may offer something even deeper. See what your budget affords you across different classes of hotels.

So What’s Your Best Strategy?

Road-Trip: Pump the breaks on booking early, unless visiting an exceptionally popular destination where hotel options will be limited. Watch rates dip as your desired check-in date approaches, then strike when it feels right.

Just A Flight: Confirm your travel plans now, you’re in the optimal booking window of 60-70 days prior to departure.

Flight + Hotel: Decide how much flexibility you have within your itinerary. Book your flight now. Monitor hotel prices and availability as your trip approaches. If you’re taking an extended trip over the last week of the year, consider booking a room in advance for the first half, then making a second reservation mid trip in order to save the most money.

 

Whether booking December travel or any time of year travel, check out Bonwi.com for your next getaway. And don’t forget to continue to check out our blog every Tuesday for more Travel Tips. Let Bonwi make sure your next adventure is the best one yet!

Four Amazing Ideas for the Upcoming Festivities

Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans traditionally gather for a day of festivities that typically revolves around feasting, football and family. No matter how or when your traditions first started though, there is nothing in the rulebook that prevents you from making some adjustments, or even starting traditions completely anew. In this week’s Travel Tip Tuesday, we have included some ideas to help inspire you to spice up the festivities soon to come.

Mother Nature’s Artwork

Viewing the changing leaves during autumn is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to experience America’s natural beauty. The crisp air and bright colors inspire travelers to embrace the outdoors. Cooler weather makes it the perfect time to go for a hike or embark on a road trip to admire the stunning fall foliage. As temperatures drop and days grow shorter, nature seemingly transforms into a masterpiece of color all around us. There is no shortage of beautiful fall scenery to be explored across the United States, and you don’t have to travel far to take part in the phenomenon. From New England to the Pacific Northwest, deciduous trees put on their dazzling display for everyone to enjoy.

Celebrating In The Big City

While big cities typically feature skyscrapers and paved roads in place of trees shedding their leaves, their abundance of restaurants, parades and seasonal activities more than make up for the lack of autumn colors. In fact, big cities can be awesome places to partake in festivals. There is nothing quite like the spectacle and extravagance of a parade marching through downtown streets. We highly recommend traveling to New York City this year to attend the Macy’s Day Parade. It is an amazingly entertaining event, and vastly different in person than on television. It’s guaranteed to be an experience you’ll never forget.

Wine Country and Orchards

During the fall harvest season, some of the best places to visit are wine-country regions from California to Virginia. It’s easy to combine leaf-peeping with stops at farmers’ markets and apple orchards, not to mention seasonal treats such as cider, donuts, and pumpkin pie. For families, autumn’s corn mazes, hayrides, and roster of kid-friendly festivals are added incentives to keep traveling after school is back in session.

Resort Getaway

Several hotels and resorts around the United States make the upcoming festivities completely streamlined and easy, allowing you more time to sit back and enjoy each day alongside your family. Doesn’t it seem more appealing to cozy up in a luxurious hotel and have the hard work done for you, rather than stress for hours in the kitchen preparing a seemingly endless feast? All you have to do is eat, sleep, and relax. Family-oriented resorts offer fun activities during the coming months such as building gingerbread houses, creating and decorating wreaths, or turning butter, marshmallows, and popcorn into delicious treats!

 

Stay tuned for the latest edition of Travel Tip Tuesday where you hear from our experts on all elements of travel as they share their personal experience and knowledge, which spans everything from fascinating must-see locations, to practical and informative suggestions. Let Bonwi help ensure that your next getaway is the best one yet.