What to Expect on Your European Road Trip

European Road Trip

European Road Trip

If you want to make the most of your European vacation, you can live like a local by renting a car.

Still, traveling somewhere new can always be a bit stressful, so we created this helpful resource to get a better idea of what to expect driving in Europe for the first time. This will afford you the freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go.

How much time should you factor in for road travel?

With 44 countries packed into a landmass that’s similar to the US, you can immerse yourself into a number of different and fascinating cultures in a very short amount of time. While Europe is comprised of many countries, most of these countries will actually compare more directly in terms of size to individual states.

For example, the major highways going from west to east in France total 590 miles, while the major highways going from west to east in Texas total 790 miles. The key difference, however, is that it would take 3 days to drive across France, while the trip across Texas could safely be done in 1 day. This is due to road systems being much more direct in the US, rather than slower and winding through much of Europe.

Keep this in mind as you plan out your trip. Always factor in extra stops along the way to fit in time for pictures, site-seeing, shopping, amazing food and other surprises (good and bad).

What are the rules of the road?

  • Expect to drive on the right side of the road except in the UK.
  • There are no right turns on red unless a sign specifies otherwise.
  • On turnabouts, give yourself a full loop before taking your exit to avoid any snap decisions.
  • It is unlawful to pass in the slow lane.
  • Some countries will require the use of headlights (even in broad daylight).
  • Speeding is often enforced via a camera system, so don’t just watch for police vehicles if you want to avoid getting a ticket.

What can I expect in terms of regulations, safety and costs?

Don’t drink and drive! Outside of the UK, expect all countries to have a lower blood alcohol tolerance than our standard .08. Most European countries will enforce a .05 blood alcohol limit, while some will require drivers to have .00 alcohol in their systems to operate a vehicle.

Expect tolls, especially along the Mediterranean coast. Some countries will require the purchase of a sticker (many rentals will have an up-to-date sticker). Toll roads may seem inconvenient but factoring in the time and gas of the more scenic routes, it’s a fair price to pay.

Certain cities may require a congestion charge in an effort to limit traffic within the city. It may be wisest to park outside of the city limits and take public transportation into the city.

Some cities have banned car traffic altogether. Watch for zones that indicate that parking is not permitted, as tickets can swiftly be enforced without your knowledge until you receive the bill at home a month or two later.

It’s best to enter your European road trip with an open mind. Some areas can be strict towards its drivers, while other areas can be very loose (in Italy, drivers can sometimes view red lights as optional, if they do not see any cars coming). Speak with your car rental agency for further driving details and understand that the overall experience is absolutely worth making a few adjustments to your expectations.

When parking, understand the differences of each city/country. In the UK, drivers expect plenty of space in between vehicles, while in France, drivers are encouraged to leave off the parking brake to allow other drivers to nudge (seriously) neighboring vehicles back and forth until they can fit in. Make sure you cover your rental with the appropriate insurance to avoid costly fines.

Assume that each country has its own set of colored lines with different meanings for parking, passing lanes, etc. Get to know the specific details of each country you will be driving in ahead of time to avoid the potential for fines or accidents.

How do I rent a car in Europe?

Just as with domestic travel, you can rent a car for European use on most travel booking websites. You can also add options like GPS, car seats, luggage racks and more.

Make the most of your European travels by collecting valuable travel points on your car rentals and hotel stays. Turn your points into a free flight, hotel stay or fun gift card if you are a Bonwi member. Find out more about Bonwi’s membership program here.

European Swim Etiquette for Summer Trips

european-swim-etiquette
european-swim-etiquette
Travel Tueday: European Swim Etiquette

If you’re a casual swim enthusiast, you have likely not run into many rules or restrictions about what you can or cannot wear while swimming. Most of your swimming experiences have likely been a fun free-for-all. 

If you’re planning a European getaway this summer, you may run into some unique rules regarding swimming pool and beach usage. In order to minimize the inconvenience of arriving at a swimming pool or beach ill-prepared, we’ve put together this helpful resource that covers the dos and don’ts of European swim etiquette and why some swimming venues enforce these strict rules.

An emphasis on cleanliness

At the root of European pool restrictions is the goal of maintaining a healthy environment for pool guests. Ideally, this empowers guests to enjoy their time swimming, splashing and sunbathing, with a significantly reduced risk of spreading germs. The World Health Organization released its guidelines for safe recreational water environments Volume 2, which focuses on swimming pools and similar environments. In this report, you’ll find a number of bacterial and viral infections that are commonly spread in public pools. Utilizing this knowledge, many European countries and cities have established best practices for limiting the potential for outbreaks.

The result is still a very similar pool going experience to how things are in the states, but with heavier up-front requirements. One main theme that is universal across Europe is the expectation, if not requirement, that all swimmers will shower before entering the pool, rather than only showering after you are done swimming. The key benefit to this is that it eliminates many of the surface level germs and dirt from the swimmers before they enter the pool. Swimmers then have the option to rinse off after the fact if they so desire. This can significantly reduce the potential for outbreaks of rashes and other illnesses.

Another effort that some European areas enforce to keep their pools clean is to restrict swimmers from entering the pool area with “street clothing”. This can include longer swim trunks, which are sometimes considered “streetwear” by lifeguards. Some pools even sell appropriate swimwear in vending machines so that unprepared visitors can still swim. Yes, this means Speedos and bikinis! 

Can this be a bit annoying for US tourists? Of course. However, going in with the right expectation and understanding the reasoning behind cultural customs and local practices can mitigate your frustrations. You may actually find it encouraging that you are entering a cleaner public pool than the one back home.

The typical European pool experience

  1. Leave your shoes at the door – Right from the start, you may be asked to leave your outdoor shoes on the designated “shoe bench” before even entering the locker room. Guests are encouraged to either put on a separate pair of swim-specific shoes, place plastic coverings over their shoes or go barefoot. This allows those that are barefoot to go in and out of the locker room without tracking dirt to the pool area and/or inside the pool.
  2. Pre-swim bathing – A heavy use pool could be filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of guests at a given time. Guests will be expected to clean themselves before entering the pool. 
  3. Wearing the proper swimwear – While tiny racing trunks (“Speedos”) aren’t required swimwear for all European pools, some will require a much more tiny garment for men and boys than popularly worn in the US. Most facilities will restrict guests from wearing t-shirts, dresses or bottoms that aren’t specifically designated for swim-use.

All of the above are designed to limit the number of dirt, contaminants and germs carried into the pool space.

What to expect at the beach

No European trip is complete without a trip to the beach! Whether you’re in the UK, Spain, France, Italy or Greece, there are any number of idyllic beach locations to spend a day that you won’t soon forget. Here are a few notes to help you maximize your European beach retreat:

  1. Not all European beaches are sans clothing – There may be a higher percentage of nude beaches in Europe than there are in the US, but it is unwise to assume that a given beach is nude-friendly. 
  2. Expect women of all ages and sizes to be wearing bikinis – One thing that is very common in European beaches is for women to wear two-piece bikinis rather than one-piece swimsuits. So, regardless of your age or comfort with your body, understand that the beaches in Europe are judgment-free zones.
  3. Clothing restrictions are less prevalent – In the ocean, the water is so massive and ever-changing that the risk for the spread of germs is less likely than a public pool. That being said, you will still likely see more tiny racing pants than in the states. Many men are already comfortable wearing shorter trunks, making it less necessary to own a different style of swimwear for the beach.

No matter where your travels take you this summer, traveling with Bonwi can help you find the best deals and accumulate points that can be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays or gift cards to make future travels that much more seamless. Find out more about our memberships here.

The Coolest Design Hotels That Are Part of Major Chains

W Hotel Mexico City

W Design Hotels, like the one in Santiago Chile

In a sea of boring hotel rooms from the major chains, how do you find the design hotels that actually give you some visual stimulation during your stay?

We know, it’s really hard to keep up with all these hotel brands. In this world of hotel chain consolidation and brand offshoots, some of the multinational hospitality companies have more names in their portfolio than a Five Guys Burgers has menu items.

Here are some of the best ones to put on your list when you are searching hotels if you’re looking for art hotels, trendy hotels, or just unique resorts that have a high cool factor.

W Hotels

The original cool chain hotel brand to really go widespread is still one of the best. Originally part of Starwood and now Marriott, the W Hotels brand is consistently modern, artistic, and—if there have been recent renovations—still surprising. You get the benefits of good corporate hotel training, but with a hipper dress code and attitude more suited to 30-somethings than the Ritz-Carlton crowd. Take a look at this one in Mexico City to get an idea.

W Hotel Mexico City

Kimpton Hotels

This was, for a long time, the coolest independent hotel chain in the USA that

Kimpton trendy chain hotel Florida

stretched from one coast to the other. Most are more boutique hotel than large chain, small enough where you can get some personal attention.

Now Kimpton is part of the IHG group that previously only had the mid-range Hotel Indigo brand for the cool kids. You can count on decor that is always interesting, a daily complimentary wine hour for mingling, and attractive rooms. They’re pet-friendly and Kimpton guests also can rely on professional service that isn’t too aloof.

Andaz Hotels and Resorts

The Hyatt brand was best-known for huge convention hotels before they went through an acquisition binge the past decade and also developed a few new brands. The Andaz one has allowed them to appeal to upscale travelers who weren’t the type who went for the traditional look and feel of a Park Hyatt.

Andaz resorts usually employ a cutting-edge architect and designer in the building process and there’s a much stronger attention to unique details and nods to local culture than you usually find in a multinational chain hotel brand. Their tag line is, “You’ll know it when you sense it.” They currently have 22 properties, with 8 of them in the USA. The shot below is their resort in the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica.

Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica

Thompson Hotels

As with Kimpton, Thompson Hotels operated as an independent brand for many years, getting lots of write-ups and awards. Then Hyatt swallowed them up to liven up their portfolio. Thompson Hotels are artsy in a different way in each location with a few consistent elements. “Spacious bathrooms include state of the art rain showers, signature robes and D.S. & Durga products.”

The chain has six design hotels in different U.S. cities and four in Mexico and the Caribbean. Have a good time in such cool locations as Nashville, Seattle, and Zihuatanejo.

Dazzler by Wyndham

These are only in Latin America right now, but they’re worth a mention because they put their policies where their mouth is when they say they’re appealing to millennial travelers. There’s a complimentary minibar, breakfast keeps serving until noon, and you get an extra two hours to check out if needed. There’s a communal area for mingling and the prices are low enough that people in their 20s and 30s won’t get chastised for putting this place on their expense report.

Business Hotels, but Aimed Younger

If you don’t gravitate to innovative design and just want a hotel room that doesn’t make you feel like you’re at an airport in Cleveland, there are some in-between options as well. Where the major chains have been trying the hardest with new brands is business hotels that aren’t crazy expensive and are aimed at millennials who don’t draw a dark line between work and play. These properties usually have fewer frills and a less traditional look in their furniture picks. They usually have a bar though which is the centerpiece of a multi-functional work and social area. They’re often in urban locations where you can walk out the door instead of having to get in your car.

Radisson Red design hotels
(c) Radisson Red

Brands to look for that fit this “kind of cool, but still clearly a chain” look include the following:

Radisson Red
AC Hotels by Marriott
Aloft Hotels by Marriott
Hotel RL by Red Lion
Hyatt Centric
Tryp by Wyndham
Tru by Hilton

There are also some oddball brands that are sort of pitched as design hotels but are hard to define collectively. Curio by Hilton, for example, seems to be the umbrella for any independent property they take over management for but they don’t want to tag with the boring Hilton brand. These include The Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, and Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque. It’s the same deal with their Tapestry Collection properties. Are they design hotels or traditional ones? Well, there’s not enough consistency to say either way.

When you go to book your art hotel or urban cool space to stay, you’ll find the best rates and a great points payback by booking at Bonwi.com.

Review and photos (except where indicated) by Tim Leffel, lodging expert and editor of Hotel Scoop. 

How To Do A Staycation

How To Do a Stayvation

Your state may not be one that is aggrandized on the silver screen, but it’s likely filled with amazing places to see, food to eat and cities/towns to explore on your next staycation.

Whether you’re a nomad or a home-body, it’s awesome to get out, experience something new and recharge from time to time. But not everybody has the time or budget to hop on a plane and take a week or month-long vacation. Luckily, there are beautiful and inspiring things happening nearby. Here’s what you can do to get out of the house and start making staycation memories.

Do some online research

A smart way to connect or reconnect with your local area is to view your local region through the eyes of a tourist. What are travel bloggers saying about camping, outdoor activities, site-seeing, food and shopping in your area?Which hotels offer jaw-dropping amenities?

  • Set up a starter checklist of must-sees and must-stays in your hometown, county or region.
  • Dive deeper into city websites, forums and even social media accounts.
  • Sites like Instagram allow for location tagging so you can see exactly where some of the most iconic scenes are located.

Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you.

Get out and drive

If you’re ever going to take the road less traveled, you may have to find it yourself. There are a ton of digital resources out there to find all kinds of amazing drives, hikes and eats. However, some of the best areas in your state aren’t going to come up on Trip Advisor, Yelp, travel blogs or even Google Maps! Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you. Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Ask a local

If you’ve lived in multiple regions of the country, you likely know that the best way to get to know an area is by living there. Want to know the ins and outs of a new city? The quickest way to find out is to ask a local. Stopping for gas? See what the attendant has to say about the area’s food scene. Checking into your staycation hotel for a night or two? The front desk staff should have a great idea of some of the best activities nearby for your specific interests.

Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Trips from a hat

Just like the well-known skit from “Who’s Line is it Anyway”, placing different trips into a hat or bowl to randomly select keeps you and your partner, friends or family spontaneous. Whether it’s a state park, view, road, city or restaurant that you would like to see, failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines. This hat trick will help.

In your research of local areas of interest, print out the names of each location and place them somewhere accessible. Set a regular time each week or month to select an adventure “from the hat” and say goodbye to the endless vortex that is:

“What do you want to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

Trust your instincts

Looking for a great bite to eat while out on the road? Searching for a change of scenery? The best thing to do may just be to follow your nose, eyes or gut. Some of the best local favorites an area has to offer may be so well known that they don’t focus on marketing their business. If this is the case, you could easily overlook an area classic for something a little more typical.

When you’re looking for a great escape, it’s okay to just slow down and feel out a given area. Use your senses to truly experience a given destination. If you smell something you like, go taste it! If you see something you like, go check it out! If something seems exciting, go explore it! If a place feels good to you, settle in and let it be your home for however long you’re there.

Failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines.

Taking these little staycations can help you reset after a busy or stressful week, connect with your local area, inspire your sense of adventure and recharge your creativity. In other words, wander more and worry less! With Bonwi’s rewards system, you can accrue points with up to 40% back on hotel stays and car rentals. Where to?

Disneyland Summertime Survival Tips

Disneyland Summertime Survival Tips

All year long your little ones have been admiring their favorite characters on the big screen and TV, quoting inspiring and hilarious lines and singing the songs from the many Disney films. Don’t wait until your kids feel all cooped up in the house during summer vacation to start making your travel plans. A trip to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is just the summer vacation idea that your family can get behind.

So now that you’re on board with planning a trip to Disneyland Resort (Disneyland Park together with California Adventure Park), you’re probably wondering what you need to do for a fun, successful trip within budget.  If the whole family isn’t comfortable physically or financially, it’s going to put a damper on the experience. At Bonwi, our mission is to make travel easier, so that vacations can actually feel like vacations. Here are our survival tips to help you make the most of your Disneyland Resort experience:

Beating the heat

Step one is to stay hydrated. Whether you’re towing your own bottle with a carabiner or regularly buying bottles at a cart or kiosk, it’s super important to keep your family hydrated. With all of the extra fun and excitement working together with the constant sunshine, you’re bound to exude a lot of energy.

The right apparel is also key to keeping your family safe and comfortable. Make sure to pack plenty of breathable tops, bottoms and footwear for the long days of fun ahead. One or more of the adults may want to consider bottoms or bags with plenty of storage to hold everyone’s essentials. Select apparel that will be comfortable for walking and standing the whole day. Hats and sunglasses will help to protect you and your family from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. 

Don’t forget to apply (AND reapply) sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied to all skin that is exposed to the sun (remember to get the tops of your feet). There is a good chance that the protective effects will wash away after swimming, a water ride, excessive sweating or after a few hours.

The best tip of all for beating the heat at Disneyland or California Adventures is to hop on a water ride!

Keeping kids safe among the crowds

Let your kids know what to expect in terms of noise, excitement and crowds before your trip out to the park. Here’s how:

Talk to them ahead of time

It’s important to educate your children what to do in case you get separated for whatever reason. This can help reduce the overwhelm that children and parents may have heading into the experience.

Make sure phones are completely charged 

Setting devices to energy-saving mode helps lengthen the life of the charge. Bring your plug-in or solar charger.

Come equipped 

From the right strollers to safe and ergonomic carriers, the right equipment can help keep everyone’s legs fresh and ready for fun, while also ensuring that your children are safely within reach.

Consider buying ID bracelets for your kids

Customizable ID bracelets can include vital information such as your cell phone number, the child’s name, address, any medical conditions, etc. 

Come early and know where you want to go

By beating the crowds with early admission, you can avoid the issue of large crowds entirely. Having a good idea of the themes, characters, rides and attractions that your family wants to see/do while at the park will reduce idol time and confusion.

Maximizing the fun without maxing out your budget 

We all want to give our little ones the most amazing experiences possible. However, it’s important to keep in mind that any Disneyland trip should result in unforgettable memories. With a little bit of planning, your kiddos can have an amazing summer vacation in Southern California, regardless of your budget. Let’s focus on a few key areas that you can customize to plan the perfect Disneyland Resort vacation:

Characters

Where are your kiddos favorite characters? Do they have any special performances and when and where do they take place? For general admission, your family can interact with Disney’s most beloved cartoons come to life! There also a number of different dining options that feature some of the Disney greats, including Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy!

Themes

What are some of the can’t miss rides and activities that your children have to see while they’re at Disneyland? Plan each day to weave through all of the excitement and amazing attractions to stick together as a family while still ensuring each kid gets to spend time in their own real-life fantasy!

Lodging

If you stay inside the resort, you’re waking up right inside the action, but it may cut into your overall budget for your trip. Weigh the benefits of having your Disneyland hotel nearby and starting your days earlier vs. having more budget to spend on food, travel and memorabilia for your Disneyland vacation.

Ticket packages

For larger groups or for families looking for a comprehensive experience, Disneyland Resort offers ticket packages that permit visitors access to unique experiences at a more affordable value.

MaxPass

For $15 per day, per person, you can beat long lines with FASTPASS access as well as download and save as many pictures from your stay as you want.

Other considerations

Get to know the Disneyland Resort rules and regulations. This will make sure that there are no surprises during your vacation. Check their FAQs for answers to any other questions you may have.

Creating lasting memories

With enough attention to detail, you can all but guarantee that your Disneyland trip will be unforgettable. When your trip does go off without a hitch, you might want to turn it into a family tradition. Look into saving money on your summer vacations and all of your other travels with Bonwi’s rewards program. Take a look at Disneyland Resort hotels, Anaheim hotels and other properties a short drive away right here.

disneyland-resort-summertime-tips

The Best Motorcycle Road Trips for Bikers With Experience

Are you a weekend warrior who breaks out the colors and cuts whenever you can? Do you feel most alive when dawning your dome and taking on twisties? This post’s for you. 

For many bikers, hitting the open road is more than just a thrill ride – it’s a way of life. The road doesn’t know what kind of bike you ride, how seasoned you are or who you’re riding with. But you get to ride the curves in the road and experience mesmerizing natural vistas from the open air. So fill up your tank and start revving that hog for these 10 bucket list biker trips.

#1 Tail of the Dragon – Deal’s Gap
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • States: Tennessee and North Carolina
  • Nearby: Maryville, TN

This easy to miss slice of road is a biker’s dream. Right near the Tennessee/North Carolina border, the Tail of the Dragon is 11 miles of whipping curves and bends – 318 of them actually, but who’s counting? It’s ideally located right on the edge of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it won’t be lacking in views. Wind through these 11 miles slowly and enjoy the ride or test your skills against the dragon!

#2 Skyline Drive

Winding through the entirety of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive makes for the perfect fall escape into the Northeast foliage that Virginia boasts. 

#3 Blue Ridge Parkway

For a longer trip, Blue Ridge Parkway only has a 45 mph limit and the roads are extremely well maintained. This is all the better so that you won’t miss the numerous pull off areas for all of the sight-seeing that can be done along this great parkway, including The Great Smoky Mountains!

#4 Beartooth Highway
  • Distance: 50 miles
  • States: Montana and Wyoming
  • Nearby: Billings, MT

Dozens of hairpin turns and switchbacks maximize this modestly populated stretch of highway near the border of Montana and Wyoming. Not for the waxers or independents, Beartooth has more twisties and ups and downs than it does guardrails.

#5 Coastal Route 1

Lobster anyone? U.S. Route 1 runs from Brunswick to Machias and generates an absolutely quintessential experience for a New England road trip that checks all the boxes. From lighthouses to the ocean breeze, you won’t be hurting for places to stop along the way to unwind after throttling through some high-speed curves.

#6 The Three Sisters AKA The Twisted Sisters

Deep within Texas’ stunning Hill Country, this route is comprised of three ranch roads (the sisters) 335, 336 and 337. Bendy hills and amazing curves make for an amazing day for Southwestern riders. Conquer The Twisted Sisters in a day or saddle up for a ranch tour cowboy!

#7 Grand Staircase

Starting near the outskirt of Capitol Reef National Park and cutting through the middle of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bikers can get one heck of glimpse of some of the amazing vistas that Utah has to offer along this 130-mile motorcycle route. Take your time getting to the Grand Staircase, as both Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon are places along the way that you’ll want to soak in.

#8 Peak to Peak Highway
  • Distance: 60 miles
  • State: Colorado
  • Nearby: Denver, CO

If a 60-mile strip of road is going to make our list, you best believe it’s because it’s packed full of hairpins and unforgettable views. Deep within the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Peak to Peak Highway features some of the best of what both Mother Road and Mother Nature have to offer. Elk and Moose are known to cross this road, so you’ll want to take it slow and enjoy the ride. Take your hiking boots to truly make the most of this great 60-mile ride!

#9 California Route 36 AKA Twisty Road
  • Distance: 140 miles
  • State: California
  • Nearby: Eureka, CA

With little to no cell reception, you’re going to want to just grip your bars and trust your instincts on this windy road. You likely won’t find many roads with more intense changes in elevation. If you’re a fan of roller coasters, this is one trip you won’t want to miss!

#10 The Natchez Trace Parkway

This Southern motorcycle route starts in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee (just below Nashville) and finishes in the town of Natchez, Mississippi. With tons of historical southern and Native American landmarks along the way, riders can easily find themselves turning this 400+ mile long trip into an unforgettable weeklong vacation.

If your heart belongs on the road, travel is inevitable. Bonwi can not only help you find the best deals on your hotels and lodges, but our rewards program helps you rack up valuable points that result in further savings on stays you were going to pay for anyway. Find out more here.

Best Cities for People with Allergies

Best Cities for People with Allergies

Best Cities for People with Allergies

Whether your job requires frequent travel or you’re planning out potential summer vacation destinations, knowing which areas are allergy-friendly and which areas aren’t can help you get prepared.

One in five Americans suffers from allergies accounting for $18 billion dollars in annual costs. This is why it’s important to consider an area’s allergy production and what a given city is doing to manage its allergens.

Allergy causes, Symptoms and solutions

While everybody’s immune and respiratory systems are unique, certain climates are more prone to foster allergens and pollutants that typically bring about airborne allergy symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • Dry, scratchy eyes
  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Swelling of the nose or eyes

Your allergy symptoms can be triggered by different allergens. Just because you haven’t experienced allergy symptoms, doesn’t mean you won’t if you are traveling to a new area. No matter where you decide to travel to, you can help reduce the impact of airborne allergens by:

  • Showering at night – This works to rinse away any buildup pollen that could be irritating your skin in the night.
  • Wearing glasses and hats – This will help protect your eyes and head by deflecting airborne pollutants.
  • Limiting your outdoor time during peak pollen release periods.
  • Placing clothing in the washing machine and changing clothes immediately after outdoor activities.
  • Wiping off shoes and pets when entering your home.
  • Purchasing a whole-home or portable air purifying mechanism.
  • Flushing the inside of your nasal passage with a nose rinse.
Most Comfortable cities

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) puts together an annual list that ranks some of the nation’s major cities in terms of how comfortable they are for allergy sufferers.  Factors that make for more comfortable allergy conditions include:

  • Cooler weather – freezing temperatures can kill off plant life that produces pollen.
  • Strategically planted plant life – clustered plant life can lead to more potent pollen buildup rather than more manageably distributed pollen levels.
  • Planting fewer high-allergy plants.
  • Biodiversity – plants still purify our air. By diversifying the city’s plant life, the density of each type of pollen is reduced.
  • Coastal proximity – ocean breezes can be strong enough to impact air quality.

Many of the best cities for allergies can be found in coastal and mountainous regions of the country.

  1. Denver, CO
  2.  Provo, UT
  3. Boise, ID
  4. Portland, OR
  5. Colorado Springs, CO
  6. Ogden, UT
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Salt Lake City, UT
  9. Raleigh, NC
  10. Spokane, WA

Allergy symptoms may often be overlooked, but they can have a profound impact on the quality of life of allergy sufferers. If you or your loved ones suffer from allergies, seriously consider the areas where allergy sufferers can breathe a little easier when planning your next vacation or business trip. 

7 Underrated Places in the US the Whole Family Will Love

Family Vacation Summer 2019

Family Vacation Summer 2019

While classic summer vacations like Disney, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Wisconsin Dells, and Cedar Point might all be fun, the options below take a path less traveled. Your family will make memories they won’t soon forget and you’ll find something for everyone.

San Diego

This pretty city has perfect weather year-round. The whole family will enjoy manageable summer heat with zero humidity.

The award-winning San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most reputable in the world, and is a must-stop for families. You’ll delight in seeing the giant pandas, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The northern frontier area boasts polar bears and arctic foxes while the African exhibit includes leopards, rare baboons, and lemurs.

Families can enjoy some of the nicest beaches in the country with activities like seal tours, snorkeling with sharks, and surf lessons. You can also do San Diego sand-free at the incredible Children’s Museum, Belmont Amusement Park, LEGOLand, Balboa Park, and countless other small attractions where your child can explore his or her interests.

Miami Beach

Florida beaches like Destin and Saint Petersburg are a hit with families. So are North Florida family hubs like Disney World and Cape Canaveral. But South Florida has something different to offer. Boasting the most tropical stateside beaches, the snorkeling in Miami Beach can’t be beat, as you’ll easily spot tons of colorful fish and aquatic life.

When the heat becomes too much at midday, head indoors for more fun. There’s an exceptional children’s museum between Miami and Miami Beach not far from Jungle Island – a great indoor spot to enjoy orangutans, lemurs, sloths, and other jungle creatures. They also feature indoor sky-diving simulation, escape rooms, and more. The Ritz-Carlton at Bal Harbor also has a well-loved children’s beach club experience, but there are many other family-friendly resorts and hotels to explore, too.

New Orleans

New Orleans =swathed in beads and feathers for Mardi Gras is not the only draw to this warm and diverse city. While your family will undoubtedly enjoy the delicious seafood, Creole cuisine and French pastries, the Big Easy boasts much more than great dining.

NOLA is loaded with historical museums, beautiful outdoor experiences, and family-friendly music experiences. Gator tours will thrill kids and adults of all ages, the enchanting train garden makes for a fun adventure inside the botanical gardens. No family vacation to New Orleans would be complete without a romp through Storyland Park, which brings your family’s favorite characters and fairytales to life. New Orleans also caters to families with kid-friendly book stores, kid-focused restaurants, and parks on every corner. Your crew might be begging to stay forever.

Anchorage

Alaska gets a bad rap as a freezing cold arctic experience featuring moose encounters. While the potential for moose encounters holds true all year round, Alaska can be downright springlike. It’s a solid choice for escaping the hight temps of July and August. Stay in Anchorage, and plan trips from there to Alaska’s many outdoor destinations.

At wildlife hubs like the Sea Life Center, the Wildlife Conservatory, and Denali National Park, your family will get the chance to see – and even interact with – tons of native wildlife. Sled dogs, sea otters and puffins are among the protected creatures you might meet and interact with on tours, while luckier travelers will see bison, moose, reindeer, and even bears. Tours of all kinds allow you to paddle, hike, or cruise through the various ecosystems that make up Alaska’s unique lands.

In Anchorage itself, your family will love exploring The Imaginarium Science Discovery Center at the Anchorage Museum or the Nancy Lake State Recreational Park. Grab a Discovery Duffel at the botanical gardens, stuffed with challenges and activities for kids, and relax at a cafe or poolside at your hotel.  

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is an eastern Tennessee town you may or may not have ever heard of. For those in the know, the Smoky Mountains bring all of the enchantment and mystery of the western US mountains to the eastern hills.

If you’ve never been, one trip on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram will blow your mind. This tram will give you a bird’s eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is as incredible as it sounds. Even better, the end of the tram will drop you and your troops at a mountain-town amusement park. In nearby Anakeesta, you’ll enjoy mining for gems and traversing the treehouse park. By the way, mom and dad, the views are insane.

Other attractions in the area include Dollywood, exploring the Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not Museum and playing with penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium, entering a dessert dreamland at Crave Golf Club and more.   

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Lake Michigan is an attraction unto itself, with the usability and accessibility of a freshwater lake and the size and waves of a coastal beach vacation.

While America’s largest lake offers plenty of spots to stay and play, Sleeping Bear Dunes is among the most unique. This area boasts forests and dunes that invite adventurers to hike, bike, ride, tube, or buggy. The lake also offers constant entertainment from wading, swimming, and sandcastle building for little kiddos to jet skiing, hang-gliding, and learning to surf for older kids.

For the whole family, this area is spotted with old-town shops, ice cream parlors, and at night, the Lanphier Observatory is perfect for stargazing and forgetting to check your phone.

Olympic National Park

For an all-in-one outdoor excursion your family won’t soon forget, head to Washington state and the Olympic National Park. This national park is one of the most ecologically diverse as it includes mountains, lakes, ocean beaches, and temperate rainforests. Choose to camp in one of many pristine and remote campgrounds, opt for a lakeside resort like the Quinault lodge, or grab a hotel in a nearby staple city like Olympia, Shelton, or Port Angeles.

On the west side of the park, your crew can experience tidepools, whale watching, and sea otter spotting at the Kalaloch beaches. To the south, dip a kayak or canoe into Quinault lake, then hike out to see the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree. On the north side, from Port A, take a casual hike through the Hoh rainforest, where spots like the Hall of Mosses, bear-sightings along the salmon-filled Hoh River, or one of many gorgeous waterfalls will enchant you. From Port Angeles, you can also take a short drive to Hurricane Ridge to see acres and acres of wildflowers peppered with deer, foxes, and elk with a stunning mountain backdrop. (This is a great place to snowshoe, sled, and ski in the winter, too!)

If your family loves the water, take a dip in Lake Crescent – this lake is free of algae and is one of the deepest and cleanest in the country. You can also visit Sol Duc Hot Springs for an any-season soak. The Puget Sound, to the east, could round out your trip and, for families with time, nearby Olympia and Seattle offer tons of indoor excitement, too.

Where will you be traveling this summer?

It’s FESTIVAL Season: Get Ready with Our Top Festival-goer Tips

Festival Season

Festival season is in full swing! You may have already learned the hard way that having an unforgettable experience at these amazing events requires a decent amount of planning. You can try to go with the flow and hope for the best, or you can take our advice and become an instant festival traveling pro.

#1 Book your lodging ASAP

There are only so many hotels near these venues. In order to ensure that you are getting a good deal, the right number of rooms and/or the best proximity, you have to book your lodging as soon as you get your festival tickets. Look into any hotels that are partnering with your festival for a special discount.

#2 Never act solo

Traveling is always a lot to handle. Having a friend or group of friends to help coordinate your trip, navigate your travels and execute your festival plans can make all the difference. Not only will you be safer with a co-pilot to talk to and manage the Waze or Google Maps, but festivals are a whole lot more fun when you get to share the amazing experience with your friends.

If you’re going to trade off driving, try to always have at least one person awake to accompany the driver.

#3 Pack early and double-check your list

Festivals can either be one long party filled with amazing entertainment, food, drinks, and fun OR they can be exhausting and overwhelming if you feel unprepared. Someone spill their drink on you and you didn’t pack extra clothes? Forget the one thing you can’t forget (the all-mighty phone charger)? By creating your own personal checklist and starting the packing process early, you make sure that among the excitement of the travel and the festival events that you are prepared for whatever comes up. Here’s a quick festival checklist to start with:

  • Tickets/wristbands
  • A physical map for traveling through dead zones
  • More than enough clothes in case of accidents/emergencies
  • Cash – whether it’s for the trip or during the festival, it’s always important to have multiple payment methods at your disposal
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer/wet wipes to keep you feeling fresh
  • Bug spray
  • Backpack or similarly easy to carry bag for extended time away from your hotel/tent
  • Tent and sleeping bag (if applicable)
  • Refillable water bottle – likely holds more than 16 ounces so you don’t get dehydrated while you’re busting a move (bonus for cutting down on waste!)
  • Phone charger
  • Chairs for downtimes
  • Blankets or mats to lay down on
  • Cards or other travel-friendly games in between sets or for in your hotel/tent
#4 Get to know the details of your festival

How is your festival laid out? What times are your favorite artists performing? How easy is it to get back to your lodging accommodations? Be certain to answer these questions ahead of time to ensure that you feel prepared to make the most of your festival weekend.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest, baddest festivals

  1. Boston Calling – May 24-26, Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston, MA
  2. Bottlerock – May 24-26; Napa Valley, CA
  3. Bayou Country Super Fest – May 25-26, 2019; LSU Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
  4. Primavera Sound – May 30-June 1; Barcelona, Spain
  5. Governors Ball – May 31-June 2; Randall’s Island, New York City, NY
  6. Roots Picnic – June 1, The Mann at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA
  7. CMA Music Festival /Austin City Limits – June 6–9, 2019; Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
  8. Bonnaroo – June 13-18; Manchester, TN
  9. Firefly – June 21-23; The Woodlands, Dover, DE
  10. Glastonbury – June 26-30; Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, England
  11. Longitude – July 5-7; Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland
  12. Pitchfork Music Festival – July 19-21, Union Park, Chicago, IL
  13. Lollapalooza Paris – July 20-21; Hippodrome Paris Longchamp, Paris, France
  14. Cincinnati Music Festival – July 25-27, 2019; Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
  15. Mo Pop – July 27-28; West Riverfront Park, Detroit, MI
  16. Lollapalooza – August 1-4; Grant Park, Chicago, IL
  17. Outside Lands – August 9-11; Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
  18. Woodstock 50 – August 16-18; Watkins Glen, NY
  19. Burning Man – Aug 25-Sep 2, 2019; Black Rock City, Gerlach, NV
#5 Map out your set-list

Which acts can you absolutely not miss? If these acts are headliners, odds are you’re going to have to stake your claim around a half hour before the set starts.

Don’t leave an amazing festival with a sour taste in your mouth because you missed your favorite band or had to wear the same pair of underwear the entire weekend. Start your planning early so that your weekend can be a breeze.

Looking for a great deal on your festival hotel so you can increase your food budget (Chi’lantro is calling…)? Do a quick search with Bonwi.com to review our best offers.

Destination Wedding I-Do’s

Destination Weddings
Destination Weddings

You get the invitation and you’re instantly hit with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. While a wedding in Italy, or Tokyo, or even Key West seems fun and exciting and you’ve been looking for a good chance for you to get out of town for a while, it’s also daunting. Can I take off this much work? How much will this cost? Who all is going?

We’ve put together the most important questions for you to ask yourself before you commit to a destination wedding.

Where am I headed?

A destination wedding that takes place on a remote island is a completely different experience than one that takes place in a major city or a small town two states over. Will you need to be ready for a rugged, adventurous week away, or a posh and metropolitan excursion? Do you need to dress for deep humidity, arid sunshine, or mountain snow? Are non-wedding meals and activities close by and walkable, taking place on an intimate resort, or spread out all over a busy city? How will you keep in touch with the other members of your party?

Know where you’re headed and what that location will imply.

Where will I be staying?

Whether you’re staying in a chain hotel in a block of rooms side-by-side with your fam, nestled into cabins or rooms on a cruise ship, estate, or grounds, or doing something more unique, you’ll want to know what’s included and how to prepare. Are guests sharing accommodations? Is there free breakfast, Wi-Fi, an onsite gym, a pool? Will entertainment be onsite or will you need to keep yourself busy elsewhere?

Prepare in advance.

What’s paid for? (And what isn’t?)

Some destination weddings are an all-expenses adventure for a few key family members or friends. Other destination weddings are a big party with a “come if you can” invitation to every acquaintance. If travel or accommodations are covered, know what else you will need to pay for. If all expenses are paid by you, the guest, make sure you know what those costs look like and whether or not the itinerary includes other expensive events, too.

Plan to tip for room cleaning, transportation and other services, even if it’s an all-expenses paid trip.

What’s the WHOLE itinerary?

Speaking of the itinerary, make sure you know what it includes. If you’re going to Bali for the week, you may want to know if that week includes planned group adventures or tours, multiple dinners out, after-wedding breakfasts, etc. or if you’re just attending a one-night event and spending a week on the sand, or left to your own devices. If the latter is true, make sure you sync up with other guests you know and see what everyone wants to do.

PRO TIP: The best way to optimize and make the most of this expense is to do more than attend a wedding – make sure you take some photos, see some sights, and take in the beauty of whatever area you’re in.

How will I get around?

It’s smart to know where you’re headed and how people normally get from place to place. If you’re headed to an all-inclusive resort or a cruise line, this may be a non-issue. However, if you and the other guests are stationed all over and events are spread throughout the city, you may want to rent a car, arrange for group transit, or know the public systems.

How will I pack your formal attire?

A beachy wedding where everyone is wearing linen and rattan may not require formal attire. Additionally, you may be able to fold everything and press at the hotel. A cosmopolitan black-tie event, however, might require special arrangements. You may need to send your tuxes and dresses to the destination ahead of time, or bring a garment bag as your personal item on the flight. Be ready.

Am I traveling internationally?

If your destination is overseas, you will need to make special arrangements including getting that passport up to date, securing immunizations as necessary, and being ready to exchange currency. We have more international travel tips here.

Am I taking the kids?

Not all weddings are kid-friendly, but many are. If your event is a family-friendly fete and you’re bringing children under 10, you’ll need to entertain them. Address what entertainment options are onsite for families or where else you can go to keep your family happy. Team up with other parents in your group so the kids can team up, too.

How long will I be gone?

This may be the most important question to ask before you RSVP. If you’re just going a couple states away for a long weekend, you may only need to take off 1-2 days of work and get your neighbor to water your plants. If this trip extends past a week, you’ll need to account for your vacation hours at work, make arrangements for your pets and plants, and consider the kids’ absence from school.

Ultimately, couples who plan destination weddings understand that not every guest can swing the trip – especially the further from home they will be. If you can’t sweat the expense or time away, don’t feel guilty. But if you can make it, and it makes sense, this wedding could be an excuse for you to take some much-needed vacation time and rack up (or cash in) all those Bonwi rewards points!

Places To Escape The Heat

Bonwi-21-Places-To-Escape-The-Heat

Bonwi-21-Places-To-Escape-The-Heat

Summer is coming and and it’s time to start planning. Below is a list of lakes, mountains, and beaches to help keep you cool in the warmer months.

Denali-Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park offers beautiful views of land and water. It’s home to amazing wildlife and offers the perfect escape from the summer heat. Temperatures during July tend to hover in the mid 60s during the day, and dip down into the low 40s at night.
MEXICO-CITY-MEXICO
Mexico City, Mexico 
Mexico City is full of interesting neighborhoods and museums, amazing archaeological treasures, and an incredible public square. Best of all, at an altitude of 7,411 feet the climate is moderate all year.
Michigan
Upper Peninsula, Michigan 
Get outside and enjoy the Great Lakes, refreshing woods, and beautiful landscapes found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The daytime highs hover around the mid to low 70s, and evening temperatures are in the low 50s.
San-francisco
San Francisco, California 
San Francisco is a great city for walkable neighborhoods, famous attractions, and every type of ethnic food imaginable. July brings daytime temperatures in the high 60s, often with a cool, gentle breeze off the ocean throughout the day.
nova_scotia
Nova Scotia, Canada 
Nova Scotia is surrounded by rolling green fields, high sea-cliffs, and wooden architecture that is perfectly picturesque. The residents of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, barely break a sweat in the summer on account of the fresh salty ocean air.
Let us help ensure that your next getaway is the best one yet. Get up to 40% back in travel points on every booking with Bonwi.com.

“Traveling for Business or Pleasure?” Why Not Both?

Combining business travel with leisure pursuits is the latest trend in travel.
Combining business travel with leisure pursuits is the latest trend in travel.

‘Bleisure’ is Movin on Up

In the age of the fifteen-second attention spans (it may be closer to ten now) millennials are making use of the work phenomenon ‘bleisure’, a blending of leisure activities and work on business trips. While baby boomers and Generation X’ers are also in on the trend millennials are leading the pack with this double-think strategy.

Killing two birds with one stone has allowed many youngins to cut down heavily on vacation costs. Frank Thurman, Vice president of marketing for National has expressed that all generations believe this mix of work and play has led to a healthier work/life balance overall.

Despite the consensus, millennials believe they should be keeping their leisure activities on the down low compared to Generation Xers and the boomers. This may change as this notorious age group begins to take over managerial positions. Bosses who partake themselves are 25 percent more likely to encourage workers to “bleis” as well.

Travel companies are adapting to this new trend, as millennials and past generations seek out accommodations over the interwebs, obscure and well known alike. HotelTonight is cornering this market with its curtailed app for business travel and varied time slots spanning from last minute to three months in advance. You never know when the boss will need you to jet off to Seattle.

Bleisure is also going global, with the most visited cities including hot spots like Singapore, Shanghai, London, Paris, Tokyo and (of course) the ever-relevant New York City. The most common bleisure trip months are September and October. General tips for planning these multifaceted getaways include scheduling meetings for Monday or Friday, booking through your company travel portal and using the company’s lodging rate, and being fully aware of your company’s travel policy.


The bleisure trend has extended past pure travel and delved into the fashion industry as well. Par en Par is a clothing line designed to allow the wearer to slip from business casual to “lets-muck-up-the-town” with ease.

More and more young folks are gravitating towards jobs with the perks of flexible business-travel. And businesses are using it to their advantage, putting these benefits front and center as they compete for talented, up-to-date employees.

An article in Travel Weekly explained how employers are working to grasp how important being able to combine business and leisure is to Millenials.

“Understanding the needs of a client’s employer can go a long way toward helping that employer formulate an effective policy about bleisure travel, according to Leah Kirgis, manager of leisure travel at Cadence, a Virtuoso agency in La Jolla, California. “One of the things we’re often asking—and something that we find directly related to bleisure travel—is how can we help our clients create a more ‘human’ travel policy, rather than one strictly focused on cost savings?” she says.

As they say, “Build it and they will come.” Not exactly a baseball stadium, but you get the point.  Find the perfect hotel room and bank your Bonwi points to earn future stays!

Ferris Wheels!

Ferris-Wheels

Ferris-Wheels

This list ranks the best Ferris wheels that are currently in operation; based not only on height, but also beauty, uniqueness and other historical noteworthiness.

High Roller – Las Vegas, Nevada

Located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, the High Roller is the world’s largest observation wheel with 28 transparent pods holding 40 passengers each.

Singapore Flyer – Singapore

Standing at a stunning 541 feet from the ground, the Singapore Flyer offers you breathtaking, panoramic views of the Marina Bay and beyond.

Star Of Nanchang – Nanchang, China

The Star Of Nanchang looks like a huge dazzling clock at night since it is adorned with 7,000 LED lights.

Orlando Eye – Orlando, Florida

Each capsule contains Apple iPads allowing you to learn about the landmarks and surroundings in several languages and see beyond what the eye can see.

Melbourne Star – Docklands, Australia

Whether you know and love Melbourne, or are a first-time visitor to the cultural capital, the Melbourne Star is a spectacular way to get your bearings.

Tianjin Eye – Tianjin, China

The Tianjin Eye is a 394 foot tall Ferris wheel built on the Yongle Bridge over the Hai River in Tianjin, China. It is the only such wheel to have been constructed over a bridge.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel – Anaheim, California

Mickey’s Fun Wheel offers two different ride experiences: swinging or stationary gondola.

Ready to explore destinations? Try a search with Bonwi.

Reward Points Battle: World of Hyatt vs. Bonwi

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

World of Hyatt versus Bonwi Rewards payoffs

How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Hyatt and are loyal to that brand, as opposed to staying wherever you want and earning Bonwi points?

Let’s take a look at points earnings and payoffs with the two programs: World of Hyatt and Bonwi Rewards.

How World of Hyatt Works

Like most major brand hotel programs, the World of Hyatt one is purposely complicated. It’s not as bad as some on the earnings side since it’s dollar-based with few exceptions, but that amount varies depending on your elite status (or lack of). Then how many points you have to spend to get a free night also depends on the class of hotel, the city it’s in, and whether it’s busy that week.

On the earnings side, as a regular member you receive 5 points per dollar spent on your room and regular services in the hotel, such as dining or drinking. This also applies to partner hotels from Small Luxury Hotels of the World when you want something with more character. If you stay enough to move up the elite tiers, you earn more points per dollar. But as a regular member, $300 spent on your tab at checkout gets you 1,500 points. See the details here.

So if we pull up hotels in New York City, we find that you could earn points from Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, The Beekman, and more. With rates on our random dates ranging from $231 to $895, you could earn between 1,155 to 4,160 points per night on the room charge.

Now let’s say you’ve racked up 50,000 points over many,  many stays and want to spend them. What will that get you?

If we pull up a warm-weather vacation destination like Cancun, you can get… not much.  It’s 25,000 per night to stay at either Andaz Mayakoba or Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen. If you head to Miami instead, it’s a little better: from 12,000 to 20,000 per night depending on the property level. So you could manage two or three nights there with your points.

World of Hyatt point redemptions

How Bonwi Rewards Works

With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 5 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

If we pull up New York City again for the same dates, you’ll see that you’d receive 6,231 per night for booking Hyatt’s Andaz Wall Street. So the same stay that would get you 311 X 5 from Hyatt’s program—1,555—gets you more than four times as many points from Bonwi.

Bonwi rewards points for Hyatt Andaz stay

This isn’t always the case. The super-expensive Park Hyatt New York is an exception because it would earn you 5 points for every dollar. But as we’ve shown with Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards in the past, you usually have the opportunity to earn more points by picking the hotel of your choice than by being loyal to a certain brand. If you stayed at The Plaza in New York instead of the Park Hyatt, you’d pay about $100 less per night and would earn a whopping 13,673 points per night you could apply to any hotel stay or airline flight.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night.

If we pull up Cancun, for instance, where your only Hyatt choices were the two at 25,000 points per night before meals and drinks, here’s a taste of what you could get, it’s a different story for those same 50,000 points at Bonwi Rewards.  You could choose from:

  • 9 all-inclusive resorts for 22,500 points or less
  • 6 beachfront all-inclusive hotels for 18,000 points or less
  • 14 Playa del Carmen boutique hotels for 9,000 points or less

In Miami, it’s even better. For the same 12,000 to 20,000 points per night, you would have hundreds of hotels to choose from.

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

Other Redemption Options for World of Hyatt

What if you don’t need free hotel nights from Hyatt or they just plain don’t have any properties in your chosen vacation spot?  Well you could exchange them for airline points, but at a huge loss. Here’s the best-case scenario from the World of Hyatt website:

Planning your next trip? You can turn your points into airline miles. Transfer as few as 5,000 points for 2,000 miles

“As few as?” Ouch. That’s quite a haircut.

You can also exchange them for dining or spa credit, but again at a terrible redemption rate.  If you exchange 10,000 points you only get $50, which means Hyatt points are only worth half a cent each. It gets better with huge transfers, but still never gets up to a penny per point.

You cannot exchange them for gift cards, even at a bad rate. That option is not available.

Other Redemption Options for Bonwi Rewards

At Bonwi, your points are yours to do what you want with and if you don’t want to use them for a hotel stay, you have lots of other options, all at a level of a penny per point.

So if you have 10,000 points, that’s worth a $500 flight. No blackout dates, no specific airlines you have to use, no transfer formulas.

Exchange Bonwi points for gift cards

If you want to get a gift card instead for Best Buy or a restaurant chain, 10,000 points gets you $100. Simple and valuable.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

Story by Tim S. Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop and Luxury Latin America, author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

 

Popular Themed Hotels Across The United States

Bonwi-Themed-Hotels

Bonwi-Themed-Hotels

Mix things up during your next hotel stay. This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday explores off-beat accommodations around the country with features that you’re not soon to forget.

MadonnaInn

Madonna Inn – San Luis Obispo, California
Located in California between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Madonna Inn is a cultural landmark that features 110 guest rooms and suites, each uniquely designed and themed. Most are colored in various gradients of pink with gilded mirrors, lush floral arrangements and plenty of velvet. The Vous room is a royal-blue luxury hideout with vaulted ceilings, an ornate chandelier, and a round bed. A stay in the Safari Suite is accented by animal skins, prints, a shower with an overhead waterfall, and two California King beds. The Madonna Inn’s Gold Rush Steak House is bursting with color, and is best known for its circular pink booths.

Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort – Cave Junction, Oregon
Childhood dreams come to life with the ultimate treehouse forts at Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort. Twelve treehouses, all custom built for the resort, are scattered around a 36-acre private property. A pulley system is in place for luggage, and a variety of spiral staircases, ladders, and rope bridges help get you to your room. Horseback riding is a popular activity, along with a comprehensive zip-line course of 15 lines. Note that it’s best to book early for a chance to stay here, as the treehouses are in high demand with bookings starting a year in advance.

Jailer

Jailer’s Inn – Bardstown, Kentucky
About an hour south of Louisville in Bardstown, KY, Jailer’s Inn was an operational prison from 1797 through 1987. Having been restored and redesigned as a hotel, the building’s original purpose is clearly shone through its iron bars, 30-inch thick stonewalls, and heavy steel doors. Six guest rooms are all uniquely decorated, honoring its past and staying true to form. The Jailer’s Inn offers a fun Jail Cell room painted black and white to pay homage to past inmates such as Elvis Presley and James Dean.

DogHouse

Red Carpet Inn & Fanta Suites Hotel – Greenwood, Indiana
Located 15 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis, this eclectic hotel looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but step into one of their 20 themed suites, and you’ll see that this hotel has some pretty stellar accommodations. Notable themed suites include the “Space Odyssey,” “Alien Invasion,” “Cinderella,” and “Casino Royale.” Each elaborately-decorated room is outfitted to look like a movie set, for a stay that you’re likely to always remember. The suites are well equipped with luxury amenities to keep you comfortable in an otherworldly setting.

DogHouse

Dog Bark Park Inn – Cottonwood, Idaho
This giant beagle-shaped hotel has become recognized as one of America’s best roadside attractions and a cultural landmark for the state of Idaho. This “mom and pop” hotel is actually owned by a husband and wife who opened the inn in 1997. The Dog Bark Park offers guests a nostalgic experience, designed to help you enjoy the simpler things in life. Instead of televisions, computers, or other such electronics, the inn is stocked with a variety of cards and board games for your entertainment (although WIFI is available). Naturally, this inn is pet-friendly for a small additional fee.

Use the suggestions from this week’s Travel Tip Tuesday to inspire you to visit new places, live new experiences, and create new life-long memories that truly stand out in your mind.

Ready to explore destinations? Bonwi offers over one million properties around the world – click here.

The Best USA Food Festivals

Bonwi-Best-US-Food_Festivals

Bonwi-Best-US-Food_Festivals

Attending a star-studded, multi-day culinary bonanza is the stuff of foodie fantasies. We have put together a list of our favorite food festivals in the USA to help inspire a mouth-watering trip.

camp-bacon-hero-builderCamp Bacon – Ann Arbor, MI 
Forget summer camps, Camp Bacon exists and offers participants plenty of opportunities to experience tasty smoked bacon. The event draws in bacon fans, bacon makers, journalists, chefs, and culinary historians. Some events are open to the public, like the Camp Bacon Street Fair which includes vendors selling bacon-related products.
The Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival
Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival – Miami, FL 
A five-day affair of dinners, presentations, and classes with celebrity chefs such as Rachael Ray, Andrew Zimmern, Guy Fieri, and Giada De Laurentiis. This event draws thousands of people each year due to impressive wine, craft beer, and spirit makers, as well as exquisite farm-to-table style cuisine.
foodiefest
Great American Foodie Fest – Las Vegas, NV 
The Great American Foodie Fest is a compilation of some of the best specialty food vendors, restaurants and gourmet food trucks from all around the country that have been featured on the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Travel Channel.
NYCfoodfestival
New York City Wine & Food Festival – New York City, NY 
The Big Apple hosts a weekend-long eating and drinking extravaganza, complete with sit-down dinners, walk-around tastings, and plenty of opportunities to meet and greet your favorite Food Network stars. The NYCWFF donates 100% of the net proceeds to the Food Bank For New York and No Kid Hungry charities.
Hawaii Food and Wine Festival
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival – Maui/Hawaii/Oahu, HI 

Set in the lush island paradise of Hawaii, the festival will take place over three weekends on multiple islands, featuring a roster of over 100 internationally-renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine makers.

Let us help ensure that your next getaway is the best one yet. Find your happy place with Bonwi.

Save Money on Transportation While Traveling!

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For travelers looking to stretch their vacation dollars, cutting back on transportation costs may be the easiest way to do just that.

Carpool

In major cities, many taxi services like UberPOOL offer ridesharing or carpooling services; take advantage of these! By sharing a ride with other passengers, you can save around 20-40% on your ride fare. Chatting with locals or other travelers is just a bonus!

Bike

Contrary to popular belief, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are not the only cities where cycling is a popular mode of transportation. Save yourself some money, get around like the locals, and rent a bike! Not only is this much cheaper than other alternatives, but getting to experience your surroundings on two wheels is probably the most personal way to see a new city.

Forget “Recommendations”

When in doubt, you may think to ask the friendly hotel concierge for their recommendation on how to get to your destination. Think twice before doing this; they may be getting a kickback from the cab company they’re recommending, ultimately costing you more out of pocket. Airports have similar agreements as well, so cut out the commissioned middle-man and do your own research.

Rent A Car

If you plan on staying in any location longer than a week, it may be wise to spend a little more upfront on a rental car rather than racking up costs from many taxi rides. Rental cars are particularly useful in more rural settings where public transportation may not be readily available, but be aware of how and where you rent.

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 explore destinations? Bonwi has the best travel deals so you can travel more often, everywhere your heart desires! Try a search today.

Rewards Points Battle: Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

Marriott Starwood hotel brands

Bonvoy Rewards Marriott Starwood

If you were part of the Marriott Hotels loyalty program or the Starwood Preferred Guest points program, you’re now a part of “Bonvoy.” After a merger between Starwood and Marriott, this behemoth of a company now has either 29 or 30 different brands (apparently even they can’t keep track of these different hotel names). You can now earn points at a staggering 6,800 hotels in 127 countries as a Bonvoy Rewards member.

The first three letters are the same as “Bonwi,” but with Bonwi Rewards you can earn points at any hotel brand and redeem them for any hotel. But where can you get to a free night faster? Let’s take a look at which rewards program will reward you more quickly.

How the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy Program Works

As with most of these big brand programs, the earning part of the equation in is relatively straightforward. You’ll earn 10 points per US$1 spent on the hotel charge itself at most properties (minus taxes), plus the same for eligible hotel charges like your bar tabs or restaurant bills. You earn 5 points per dollar at lower-priced brands Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels.

With this system, if you pay $250 per night for your JW Marriott hotel for two nights and charge $200 of other services, you would earn 7,000 points total for that two-night stay. Or 3,500 points at what they consider a lesser brand in the portfolio. That’s rather underwhelming, probably on purpose: they want you to stay at least 10 nights to get the bottom elite status, where you earn an extra 10%. If you stay 25 nights in a year you bump up to 2.5 extra points per dollar spent as a Gold member. The sales reps on the road who never see their family are the main targets of this program: to get to the highest “Ambassador Elite” level, you need to spend nearly 1/3 of your year in a Marriott property and spend at least $20,000. Do that and you get a 75% points bonus and some extra perks, like room upgrades, breakfast, and late checkout.

JW Marriott Hotel Cusco
JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco, Peru

Earning Free Nights With Bonvoy Rewards

Where it gets tricky is on the redemption side. There are now 8 tiers of redemption at Marriott/Starwood’s new Bonvoy Rewards. In theory these start at 7,500 (or occasionally less during an off-season promotion for an empty hotel), though in my experience, spotting a hotel available at that level is like spotting a rare species of bird in the wild. Plus it will be the bottom of their barrel, usually their version of a roadside motel. The rest range from 12,500 to 100,000 per night, roughly based on brand and price. So at the bottom level you’ll probably get a Residence Inn, at the top level you have a shot at a Luxury Collection or Ritz Carlton property.

In that two-night JW Marriott Cusco example before, the 7,500 points you earned won’t get you very far. You probably need about 5 stays like that to get a free night at this JW Marriott or an equivalently priced ($237) property.

Marriott Rewards redemption level

The combined Marriott and Starwood Bonvoy Rewards program is mostly an improvement, especially considering the wider breadth of properties available now, but how does being loyal there stack up to no loyalty at Bonwi? It might if you sign up for one of their premium credit cards, spend $5,000 within three months, and also pay an annual fee of $100+. But otherwise…

How the Bonwi Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less straightforward on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 10 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night. Let’s say you regularly have to go to Houston on business, but you’re thinking about going to Peru on vacation. How would that play out with Bonwi?

Earning Bonwi Reward Points for Your City Hotel Stays

Pulling up a random week in Houston, Texas, we find that some of the highest-earning hotels are actually Marriott ones, so we can do an apples to apples comparison. In the screenshot example below, a two-night stay would earn you from 16,171 to 20,311 points.

earning more hotel reward points with Bonwi in Houston

Based on the price of those stays, if you booked them direct with Marriott, you would only earn 4,820 to 7,840 points in their rewards program (not counting food and drink charges that could bump it up).

What if our budget is lower? Other options are the Houston Marriott North, earning 8,371 points for a mere $135 rate (that would get you 2,700 points with Marriott) or a SpringHill Suites by Marriott at the airport. That would earn you 7,789 Bonwi points for a $131 rate (that would get you 2,620 at Marriott). Check your own business travel city here.

Redeeming Points With Bonwi

On the redemption side, you’re also far better off with the non-loyalty Bonwi Rewards points. When we head down to Cusco for our Peru vacation, here’s a sampling of what’s available to us.:

JW Marriott El Convento – 24,200 per night
Sonesta Hotel Cusco – 10,430 per night
Casa Andina San Blas – 7,875 per night
WakaPunku Boutique Hotel – 6,184 per night

So first of all, you need 11,000 fewer points to book that JW Marriott than you would with Marriott, even though we earned far more by booking our Marriott property through Bonwi in Houston. Next, with Marriott you only have two choices in Cusco, whereas with Bonwi you have more than 100 choices. Some of the smaller B&B type places go for 5,000 points or less. So if you had the kind of points Marriot requires of you just to get a one-night stay, you could get a whole week’s vacation in Cusco and the Sacred Valley via Bonwi.

vacation in Cusco Peru with reward points

In this example, just one two-night business trip to Houston would earn you enough points for a two-night stay at many hotels in Cusco. Earn from a few other business trips and you could upgrade to that JW Marriott easily. In this example, six domestic business travel trips in the USA could probably pay for six nights in Peru between Lima, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Do this a few more times or stay more than two nights on your biz trips and you’ve got enough points to pay for airline tickets too—at the simple redemption level of one point = US 1 cent.

Airline Transfer Options Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines, which does make them more valuable than your typical hotel loyalty program points. That doesn’t mean it’s a great deal, however. I’ll leave the math to this post on the Boarding Area because, as with most things in the Bonvoy program, it’s kind of complicated.

Marriott Bonvoy points are transferable to a huge selection of airline partners. In most cases the transfer ratio is 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. However, if you transfer 60,000 points, you’ll get 25,000 miles instead of 20,000. That makes the transfer ratio 3 to 1.25. Additionally, when you transfer to United Airlines miles, you get a 10% bonus. 60,000 rewards points converts into 27,500 United miles (a 3 to 1.375 transfer ratio).

What’s the ratio for Bonwi points? The math is much simpler. If you have 60,000 Bonwi points, that will get you a $600 flight. Any airline, any time, no transfers necessary. No downgrades, no blackout dates, no time on the phone with the oh-so-helpful reps at United.

Oh, and those 60,000 points will also get you a $600 gift certificate to a retailer if you prefer. Again, no complicated formulas. Just move the decimal.

Once again, it’s no contest. Bonwi Rewards is going to earn you freebies far faster than Marriott Rewards.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

The Cardinal Rules Of Carry-Ons

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Bonwi-Carry-On-Rules-and-Tips

This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday offers a few tips to keep in mind to help you pack light and pack right.

There are numerous advantages to flying with only a carry-on, and the benefits span from departure to arrival and back again. You’re able to save money by not checking bags, avoid the possibility of losing your luggage, and you can breeze past baggage claim to start your vacation before the first bag has even touched the conveyor belt.

  • Focus on packing only the essentials.
  • Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes, two pairs of pants, and wear your heaviest items on the plane.
  • Bring no more than one week’s worth of clothes.
  • For longer trips, plan to do laundry along the way.
  • Be efficient with your selections. Ensure that each garment you bring can color-coordinate with everything else in your travel wardrobe.
  • Bring only items that work with multiple outfits, otherwise leave it at home.
  • Clean your wallet/purse of old receipts and any junk you don’t need, swap your paperbacks for a Kindle, and forget about those “just in case” items that you can easily buy where you’re headed.
  • Consider using compression bags to save extra space.
  • Check in advance if your airline enforces weight limits for carry-ons.
  • Maximize your “personal item” by swapping a purse or laptop bag for a small backpack that can fit easily under the seat in front of you.
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them; it will both save space and minimize wrinkles.

Embrace the simplicity and freedom of carry-on travel and you’ll never go back.

Ready to explore destinations? Try a search on Bonwi.

The Best Airports For A Layover

Bonwi-Best-Airports-For-A-Layover

Bonwi-Best-Airports-For-A-LayoverLayovers are seldom fun, as most seasoned travelers would agree. Moreover, layovers are growing significantly longer as airlines fly increasingly larger planes while reducing their number of flights. Fortunately, a handful of well-managed airports around the world are kicking their services and amenities up a notch in response to this trend. This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday showcases a few of our favorites.

Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)

Incheon offers free Wi-Fi and computers for travelers to use, but that’s not all. Here you’ll find an 18-hole putting course, casino, two movie theaters, an ice rink, a spa, and a sauna.

Munich International Airport (MUC)

Munich International comes complete with its own beer garden, live music, and on-site brewery, where you can watch brewmasters in action while waiting for your departing flight. The Visitors Park offers free showings of aviation movies, mini-golf, ultra-modern nap pods complete with iPhone and USB ports, as well as free coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

Zurich Airport (ZRH)

Free showers are available along with plenty of communal rest areas with reclining chairs. If you are looking for a little more privacy, furnished rooms are available to rent that come complete with beds, a television, and private bath. Plenty of duty-free shops and restaurants line this airport, including ones with the famous Swiss chocolate.

Dubai International Airport, Dubai (DXB)

Here you’ll find the world’s largest duty-free shop (58,000 square feet!). As if that’s not opulent enough, kiosks are scattered throughout the airport where travelers can buy actual gold bars before their flight. Walk through open-air gardens with mist machines, or stop in for a workout at their 24/7 gym, complete with a pool and showers. Reasonably-priced Snoozecubes are available, which are soundproof rooms that feature a bed, touch screen TV, and music.

Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN)

Changi International has it all. Explore a hikeable nature trail, butterfly gardens with more than 1,000 butterflies,  a full arcade, and a free movie theater. If you’d rather relax, experience the airport’s massage chairs, fish spa pedicures, multiple gardens, napping rooms, a rooftop swimming pool, and showers.

Ready to explore destinations? Try a search on Bonwi.