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Here’s important vacation preparation information from “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” by Max Brooks: “If you believe you can accomplish everything by ‘cramming’ at the 11th hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining.” In other words, it’s time to start planning your summer vacation. Here are 15 things you need to know as you look ahead to taking time off — and you are taking time off. Read on.
You need a vacation. If you work full time, you’re averaging 42 1/2 hours a week in the hot box. Almost 7% of you work 60 hours a week or more. Those are the 2014 stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So why not put on the brakes for a week or more? After all, more than three-quarters of full-time workers are compensated with paid vacation time, according to the bureau. Even your company wants you to take time off not because it worries about you but because unused vacation creates a financial liability — about $ 224 billion that shows up on the books, says the Project: Time Off report “The Hidden Costs of Unused Leave,” an initiative of the U.S. Travel Assn. “Harrumph,” you say. “That’s the company’s problem.” But it’s also your problem because the same study says you’re giving back an average of 3.2 days of vacation. It’s one thing not to want to give your company a break; it’s quite another not to give yourself one.
If you usually spend vacations with friends or family, insist they move to Europe so you can save more money. Summer will be hot, hot, hot (economically speaking) for Americans visiting the Continent, partly because the U.S. economy is strong. The website TradingEconomics.com says disposable income in the U.S. reached an all-time high in February, partly because the dollar is beating up the euro. For every $ 10 exchanged, you get 9.31 euros, according to a recent exchange rate. A year ago, you got 7.24 euros. That means a hotel room that cost you 150 euros in 2014 — $ 207 U.S. — will cost you $ 161 a night this year if rates remain the same. Stay 10 nights and you have an extra $ 460 in your pocket.
There’s a chance your airfare to Europe won’t be quite as expensive. Two positive signs: Fuel prices are moderating, said Warren Chang, vice president and general manager for airfare search aggregator Fly.com, and competition is having an effect. Although fuel isn’t the only determinant in setting airfares — competition and demand play huge roles — Chang thinks airlines are offering a bit of relief to consumers. A bigger plus for L.A. fliers: Norwegian Air. The low-cost European carrier is making other airlines squirm a bit, he said, by offering prices as low as $ 711 for a round trip from LAX to London or Oslo, a recent search showed. (These fares were for May 6-13 and may no longer be available.) Last year at this time, the lowest fare to London in the Travel section’s April 6 airfare chart was $ 811 — significant because Norwegian didn’t make its debut in L.A. until May.
U.S. travelers will be able to purchase online tickets for direct flights from New York, Miami and Tampa, Fla., to Cuba starting Wednesday on CheapAir, the first online travel retailer to offer such bookings.
Did someone say “day date”? With this app you can grab a hotel stay during the middle of the day for lower rates.
Available: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Requires iOS 7 or later. Also available for Android on Google Play.
What it does: The app reveals a variety of options for the traveler when it comes to hotel stays. Discover hotels that will let you book a room for the day (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) instead of overnight. Available in 11 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York City, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia,, Atlanta, Chicago, Palm Springs, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. .
What’s hot: I love the opportunities this opens up: day dates for busy parents, pool and spa access for afternoon meet-ups, a work space for business people or a place to rest before or after a long flight or during a layover, just to name a few. Travelers can search for rooms for “Today,” “Tomorrow” or by picking a date on a calendar. I found the Serrano Hotel in San Francisco available on a Sunday in May for $ 68 (plus taxes and fees that brought it to $ 89); it was $ 193 with taxes on the hotel’s website. When I searched New York City, I had several options between $ 65 and $ 299 (pre-tax).
The Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli returns to Las Vegas on Saturday, April 4, as part of the “Lipshtick — The Perfect Shade of Stand Up” comedy series featuring female comedians at the Venetian. Last month, her one-hour special “Tough Love” debuted on Comedy Central with her trademark comedy that combines the raunchiness of Don Rickles and Archie Bunker with a dose of femininity.
Learn how to save money on your next trip with tips from travel guru Johnny Jet and Travelzoo senior travel editor Gabe Saglie on April 18 at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC.
Just in time for spring and summer road trips, here’s an app that can save you time and money.
Name: Gas Guru
Available: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch with iOS 7.0 or later. Android on Google Play.
What it does: Locates gas stations by price near your current location. Can also search by city.
What’s hot: I’ve known that apps like this existed, but out of habit I always filled up at the gas station down the street. Once I tried the completely redesigned Gas Guru app, I found a number of stations that were cheaper than my usual spot. Thanks to the app, I could save 30 cents to 54 cents a gallon at stations less than four miles from my house and close to shops I drive by regularly. You can use the app in map mode and get directions or view by list and sort by price or distance. It’s easier to use than its competitor, GasBuddy.
What’s not: I wanted two more features: a “favorites” list, where I could save gas stations, and a road trip calculator. If I find stations I like or want to plan ahead for a trip, I’d like to note my preferences without needing to use another app or pencil and paper.
A day after Indiana’s governor signed a hot-button business law, calls for travel boycotts began. The chief of tech giant Salesforce.com said the San Francisco company will stop sending staff to meetings in Indianapolis with its locally based ExactTarget division. And Gen Con, a gamer convention, and the Disciples of Christ church group were considering pulling their conventions out of Indianapolis.
Singer Céline Dion will return to performing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in August after an absence to take care of her husband and to address her own health issues.