5 Simple Tips for Saving on Holiday Travel

It’s almost that time of year again and while many of us can’t seem to see past Halloween, we should be conscious of the rapidly approaching holiday season and with that, increasing travel costs. Check out these simple tips to save you money on your travel this holiday season.

1. Book early and save.

If you’ve figured out your family’s travel plans for the season, the time to book is now. The earlier you book, the better your chances are for getting a great deal on holiday travel plans. It is recommended that you book at least three weeks in advance when purchasing a flight. You’ll see the lowest fares debuting in early November. If you have to wait to book your travel plans, then try waiting to book on days when travel is typically cheaper, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, instead of booking on a Friday or Saturday.

When booking early, you may be worried about missing out on a cheaper fare price. However, travel sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline all offer Best Price Guarantees, which can help you get refunds if a lower fare price is found. Make sure to read each companies’ fine print and list of flight qualifications in order to receive your refund.

2. Fly the day of the holiday.

Often times, the most expensive days to travel are the days before and after the holiday because that is when most people travel. Take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as an example. If you can rearrange travel plans to fly on the day of the actual holiday, it will increase your odds of scoring a better deal. Your in-laws or other family members may not be the happiest about it, but your wallet definitely will be.

3. Look for coupons and deals.

Nowadays there is a coupon or deal for nearly everything, especially travel. The business of travel is very competitive, so you will find deals on anything from rental cars, hotels and flights. Try booking all three together for a package deal. If you’re looking only for a hotel, try looking for exclusive deals like 10 percent off Best Western Room Rates to guarantee you’re getting a great rate.

4. Get there early.

The last added piece of stress you need when traveling for the holidays is missing your flight and having to pay extra in flight change fees. These are the busiest travel times of the year so be prepared when getting to the airport; lines will be long and patience short. Getting there early will ensure you’re on-time to your gate (now let’s just hope the plane is on-time, too).

Parking can add an extra amount of time to your travels. From trying to navigate through the overly packed parking lot, finding what seems like the last spot and catching the shuttle to the terminal, your well-prepared travel plans could quickly change. Instead of parking, find a friend to take you to the airport. Not only will this save you on time, but also money on the inflated parking fees at the airport. If you find that all your friends are also traveling, try using a coupon code for a free Uber or Lyft ride.

5. Ship your extra luggage and gifts.

Depending on how many days you’re traveling and how many are in your family, shipping your extra luggage and gifts is a great way to cut costs this season. Many airlines are charging extra fees for checked baggage and sometimes even for carry-on bags. Almost all airlines will have an overweight bag fee as well. If it is feasible for you to ship any extra belongings ahead of your trip then you could definitely be enhancing your holiday travel savings. In addition, shipping any gifts you will be giving away is a great way to not only keep the packages looking freshly wrapped, but also avoiding any TSA inspections of wrapped packages which will cost you precious time.

Many people don’t think of October as a “holiday” month, but we all know after the end of Halloween comes Christmas music on repeat, the smell of apple pie and of course holiday shopping. You try to save money during the holidays by shopping on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday but fail when it comes to saving on holiday travel. The key is to be aware and book early. Try using some of these tips when you travel this season and let us know how it goes. Safe travels, everyone.

Getting Started: Why you should book your flight early for travel in 2016

If you’re making travel plans for 2016, or even just thinking about taking a trip next year, it may be a good idea to book your airfare sooner rather than later.

Fare sales are raming up this month after a record number of airline deals in the fall, according to Hopper, an app that tracks airfare trends and predicts when to get the best price on a plane ticket.

“September was by far the strongest we’ve seen for sales,” said Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper. “In October, the number of sales was up about 50 percent from the same period last year, and December could be another good month.”

To take advantage of the discounts, here’s what you need to know:

��Book for winter or spring travel. According to Hopper’s Consumer Airfare Index, the average round-trip domestic airline ticket booked in December for travel during off-peak times – generally from January until just before the start of the summer travel season in May or June – is expected to cost just $205. Last year, the average was $245.

The index measures the “good-deal” price a consumer would typically pay for domestic travel (and so excludes last-minute ticket purchases for business travel that usually are far more expensive).

Surry said one reason for the greater frequency of sales has to do with the sharp decline in oil prices.

“Fuel costs have gone down a lot, so airlines have a little more room to fight each other on prices,” he said.

In addition, most flights for holiday travel are already booked by the start of December. With consumers focused on completing their holiday shopping at the mall, rather than buying plane tickets, airlines start cutting fares.

��Search midweek. You’re likely to find the best flash sales on Wednesdays and Thursdays. A flash sale is a fare drop of 20 percent or more below prevailing ticket prices.

“Sales are driven by people at the airlines,” Surry said. “As the workweek starts, they’ll decide if they need to run a sale in order to fill more seats.” As a result, Surry said, sales usually finish as the workweek wraps up and are all but nonexistent during holidays and weekends, when airline executives are not in the office.

��Pick a popular destination. The best deals will be found if you depart from a city that is served by more than a couple of competing airlines. Those cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia. The same is true if you travel to popular destinations in the U.S., such as Las Vegas and Orlando, and for overseas trips to cities such as Cancun, Mexico; London; and San Jose, Costa Rica.

“You tend to find the best sales at airports that have multiple carriers,” Surry said. “So Boston, which is served by a lot of airlines, will have a lot more competitive price movement than a place like Detroit will.”

��Be flexible. Fare sales don’t last long, often ending the same day that they started. And the biggest discounts will be snagged by travelers who can be flexible about their travel dates and times.

“Our advice is to keep an eye on destinations that you might be interested in,” Surry said. “If you see a deal, act quickly.”


Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. yourmoney@tribune.com.

10 Things to Do Before International Travel

Check your passport and visa requirements. You will need at least 6 months before expiry in your passport to travel out of the country. Check to see if you need a visa(s) for the country(s) you’re visiting. Some can take weeks to process, so plan ahead. Make sure you’ve got enough pages in your passport: consider the number of stamps you’ll be getting. Then find a nice, safe spot to keep your passport on your travels and make that the only place you keep it.

Photocopy and scan important documents. Heaven forbid you lose your backpack, wallet, purse, but if you do you’ll want all of these documents handy to get replacements in a timely manner. Save things like your passport, visa, health insurance card, credit card, and travel arrangements to Dropbox, Google Docs, etc. Print out at least one copy of the front passport page and hide it in a separte bag with your actual passport.

Check your meds. Some distant lands require specific immunizations. Passport Health can help in most cases. Refill your prescriptions and ask for extra medicine if you’ll be gone for a while.

Buy travel insurance. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It’s relatively cheap and covers everything from medical bills to lost luggage to stolen valuables. Check out World Nomads, but there are plenty to choose from.

Sort your money. Find out the currency of the country(s) you’re traveling and how best to get money. Look into getting a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option if you travel frequently (so is CapitalOne VentureOne and Charles Schwab reimburses all ATM fees). Let your bank know you’ll be overseas or they could freeze your account. Save the international phone number of the credit card company in case you need to cancel your card, get a cash advance, etc. while away.

Make a budget. On the road is no time to go broke. Start with the big purchases you know you’ll be making (flights, accommodation, attractions, etc.) Then give yourself a per diem that includes your daily food, travel (taxis), and other small purchases.

Memorize three key phrases. If you don’t already know the language, learn the essentials. Even if you only know a few words, people appreciate the effort. Download Duolingo for added assistance. Then practice charades.

Turn off roaming. Unless you have opted into an international mobile plan, turn off roaming on your phone. Data can eat through hundreds of dollars in a very short amount of time.

Pack and repack. Less is more when you’re lugging a backpack or suitcase through airports, onto trains and in and out of hotel rooms. Pack once with everything you think you will need. Take everything out. Eliminate one-third. Repack.

Write your mother. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be your mother, but write your close family and friends letting them know where you’ll be, who you’ll be with and contact, flight, and accommodation information. If you’ll remember, the guy from 127 Hours did not take this step.

This article originally appeared on Avelist

More from Avelist:

7 things Americans should know about travel to Cuba

Havana (CNN)With the United States and Cuba set to restore full diplomatic relations next week, many Americans rightfully wonder what’s really changed as a result of America’s new policy with the communist-run island nation.

Since we’re talking about Cuba, don’t expect everything to be perfectly clear:

1. How can Americans legally visit Cuba?

U.S. citizens need approval from the Treasury Department to spend money in Cuba. Since the end of the Eisenhower administration, most business transactions with Cuba are banned and punishable with hefty fines or even jail time. Cuba remains the only country in the world off-limits to U.S. tourists.

That said, it’s recently become much easier for Americans to legally visit the island just 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. for reasons other than tourism.

In January 2015, President Barack Obama expanded the categories of authorized travel to Cuba. U.S. citizens can legally travel to Cuba if they are engaging in activities such as professional research, participating in an athletic event, performing in a concert, working on a humanitarian project or taking part in educational activities.

Previously many of these activities required applying for a specific license and maneuvering a labyrinth of government bureaucracy. Now many U.S. citizens can essentially “self license” if they believe their travel to Cuba meets the legal requirements.

The new Cuba policy allows thousands more Americans — but not everyone — to visit Cuba for the first time.

 2. What’s still off limits?

Americans are still not allowed to visit Cuba for the purposes of tourism.

Travelers should be able to show their visit helped the Cuban people or had an educational component to it.

Soaking up rays on the beach and sipping mojitos doesn’t cut it. That said, there doesn’t appear to be much of an effort by U.S. government officials to determine who did or didn’t hit the beach or go nightclub hopping in Cuba.

Travel companies are busy developing additional “people-to-people” offerings to meet the demand spurred by the elimination of much of the formal traveler licensing process.

U.S. cruise lines such as Carnival have even proposed bringing boatloads of Americans for educational tours and several ferry operators have proposed re-establishing regular service between Florida and Cuba.

Still wary of CIA plots against the island, Cuban officials are studying the avalanche of U.S. proposals carefully.

3. Is getting to Cuba from the U.S. easier?

Until recently, U.S. travelers with licenses or going illegally often had to fly via a third country and were often at the mercy of the unpredictable flight schedules and creaky Russian airplanes of Cubana Airlines, the badly run state airliner.

Now there are multiple daily flights from Miami and more flights being added from destinations such as Tampa, New York and Orlando operated by major carriers including American and JetBlue. However, seats still must be booked through third-party charter companies as airlines won’t be able to sell tickets to Cuba directly until the United States and Cuba negotiate a new civil aviation agreement.

While the flight from Miami to Havana only takes 45 minutes, it’s recommended to check in four hours before departure time. Expect to spend a lot of time in various lines behind people bringing suitcases full of car parts, flatscreen TVs and spandex to needy relatives on the island.

 4. How about once I get to Cuba?

Cuba is really not ready to receive a huge influx of visitors, particularly from the United States. There are not enough good hotels, and infrastructure is in terrible shape. U.S. credit cards still aren’t accepted in Cuba and forget about overseas roaming on your U.S. cell phone.

You will most likely be taking a vacation from the Internet, too. Apart from hotels and a few dozen Cuban government “hot spots,” there is very little connectivity in Cuba. Netflix may be available here now but in reality you won’t be catching up on your favorite shows.

5. How do I make sure my visit helps the Cuban people?

Critics of Obama’s new policy toward Cuba say any increase in trade will ultimately flow into the coffers of the Cuban government.

While it’s hard to cut the Cuban government out of the equation, there are ways to make sure your stay benefits Cuba’s growing number of small entrepreneurs.

For starters, stay in a “casa particular” or private home rather than a government-run hotel. Airbnb.com has a large listing of casas to choose from. Renting from Cubans provides a more unique, genuine experience than hotel stays and at a fraction of the price.

After four years of living in Cuba, it’s very rare these days that I eat at a government restaurant. Instead, the dining scene in Cuba revolves around “paladars,” the privately owned restaurants that despite Cuba’s many shortages are increasingly sophisticated and creative.

Bowing to private industry, the Cuban government has said it is planning on closing many of the state’s inefficient, drab eateries.

6. How many Cuban cigars can I bring back?

Under the new regulations, U.S. visitors to Cuba can legally bring $100 of Cuba’s coveted cigars home with them.

The problem is most boxes of Cuban cigars in state-run stores sell for much more than $100, with a box of premium Cohiba cigars usually going for over $400.

You can of course buy cigars (most likely fakes) for much less from the throng of black market sellers who stake out hotels pestering tourists. But those contraband smokes typically don’t come with receipts.

Frequent travelers to Cuba say that they have brought back a box or two to the United States without experiencing any issues.

7. Is now the time to go?

While traveling to Cuba is still a hassle and legally murky, many U.S. travelers think now is the time to come.

Cuba is experiencing a boom in visitors from the United States and from other countries, who want to see Cuba before the island becomes too “Americanized.”

That’s probably a long way off from happening since the Cuban government is resisting any major changes to the island’s political system and state-controlled economy.

And there’s always the possibility that the next U.S. president could roll back many of the changes enacted by Obama.

Still, a visitor coming to Cuba will witness a long misunderstood island in the midst of an exciting and long-awaited transition.

Patrick Oppmann is CNN’s Havana-based correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @CNN_Oppmann or see his pictures of life in Cuba on Instagram @cubareporter.

How to Spot a Travel Scam

When was the last time you booked a vacation with the help of a real person, whether it was a travel agent or a customer service representative? Assuming you have access to the Internet, it’s safe to say it probably wasn’t recently. Though booking sites and social media have made it easier than ever to plan and pay for travel online, our increased Internet use has also left us inherently vulnerable to phishing scams. Even if a cruise line or airline is offering a rock-bottom price that seems too good to be true, we’re often mesmerized by the allure of a discounted or even free vacation. Whether it’s a fake American Airlines Instagram account promising one free round-trip ticket to the first 5,000 followers or an unsecure wireless network in a hotel lobby, there are plenty of ways for the modern travel to be unknowingly duped.

To help you avoid falling victim to a travel scam, U.S. News identified some of the most common schemes to steer clear of, plus red flags to watch for when booking travel and while on vacation.

See: 5 Travel Rip-offs to Avoid

The fake vacation rental

According to a 2015 TripAdvisor survey, vacation rental stays are on the rise, with 59 percent of travelers swapping traditional lodging options for vacation rentals. Why are travelers so keen to ditch the hotel? Eighty-seven percent said they’re more likely to book a vacation rental thanks to the increased availability of online information, such as traveler reviews and photos. This is music to the ears of hackers who post fraudulent listings in the hopes of duping unsuspecting bookers. Several vacation rentals sites, including Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, offer protection against scammers. HomeAway, for example, provides HomeAway Payments, which means the site acts as a trusted mediator between the owner and the renter, much like Airbnb. In FlipKey’s case, owners undergo a background check and properties themselves go through an extensive verification process. But even with these safeguards in place, it’s still easy to book a fake property or even release your personal information to a savvy cyber crook.

Laurel Greatrix, head of public relations for TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, advised calling the owner or manager to get more information about the property. You’re much more likely to fall victim to phishing via email than over the phone. Reviews from fellow travelers will also help you determine if a property is legitimate. When you’re speaking with the owner, ask if he or she can provide references so you can contact previous renters about their experiences.

Red flags: Changes in the email address you’ve been communicating with or requests to pay the full amount too early or via services like Western Union could be a sign of a fraudulent listing. Vacation rental websites offer a clear payment protocol, meaning you should be suspicious if an owner requests you deviate from the site’s rules.

Unsecured wireless networks

In our efforts to remain constantly connected, many of us are quick to log on to the strongest Wi-Fi network we can find. But open networks (networks that don’t require a WPA or WPA2 password), can leave us vulnerable. And just because a network is provided through a hotel, airport or business doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe from having your personal information hacked. To be cautious, connect via a personal Wi-Fi hotspot set up through a wireless device like your smartphone. When browsing the Web or inputting personal information into a site, only use encrypted sites — websites that include “https” at the beginning of their address. That “s” stands for secure, and it means cyber thieves can’t hijack your information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you can also download add-ons that require the browser to use encryption on sites that typically aren’t encrypted. Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are two add-ons recommended by the FTC.

Red flags: If you’re using an open wireless network, make sure it’s actually affiliated with the hotel or airport. Check with the front desk or a customer service agent at the airport to retrieve the correct Wi-Fi network, or ask if there’s a secure network with a password available. Hackers can set up fake wireless networks that may appear to be affiliated with the hotel or airport, but actually have subtle typos differentiating them from the authentic network. This can leave you even more vulnerable should you use a site that requires a password.

See: Ways to Avoid Apartment Rental Scams

Swindling street performers

Mostly encountered in Europe (though you may spot them in domestic tourist hot spots like Las Vegas, too), street performers and street scammers prey on travelers caught off guard. Popular cons like the “friendship bracelet” (where a person ties a bracelet onto your wrist, then demands payment for it) and the “found ring” (when someone approaches you saying you dropped a ring, puts it on your finger and then demands money) are just a few to watch for. But some of these tricks require little cunning, such as a person wearing an Elmo costume in Times Square who requests money after an unknowing tourist snaps a selfie with him or her.

Red flags: Beware of overly friendly people on the street or individuals who approach you offering directions. And don’t take photos with street performers. You may be asked to fork over some money if you do.

Fake social media accounts

Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, cyber crooks have found a new avenue to target consumers, and to the hacker’s benefit, these scams spread quickly. While fake Instagram accounts haven’t been as prevalent since Instagram started offering verified account badges, fake accounts promising free travel services still crop up. Though most only prompt you to follow the account or share the photo and tag the account, it’s still best to trust only the brand pages that have been verified. Fake Facebook pages, on the other hand, can cause a little more damage. If you see a travel offer that prompts you to link your Facebook account and install an application via the site’s Facebook Connect feature, you could be inadvertently supplying your personal information to hackers. At the very least, the application will post spam comments to a random selection of your Facebook friends.

Red flags: Before liking or sharing a post, confirm that the account is verified. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer verified accounts (easily identifiable by a small blue check mark next to the account name), making it easier for users to distinguish what’s real and what’s fake. And if all else fails, listen to your gut: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

See: How to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

Ann Rivall is a Travel Editor at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter, circle her on Google+ or email her at arivall@usnews.com.

New Ferry Travel Routes to Open Up Between US-Cuba

Americans hoping to jet down to Cuba could soon have the option of going by ferry instead. And if one company has its way, travelers will ride in style on a vessel filled with gambling, restaurants and other amenities.

Two Florida companies — Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale and Baja Ferries USA of Miami — said Tuesday they have received approval from the U.S. government to start offering commercial service to the communist island nation, the Sun Sentinel first reported.

Baja Ferries is looking to provide rides out of Miami, Key West and Port Manatee in Tampa Bay, with Havana as the main destination, President Joseph Hinson told NBC News. The company, which has operations in Mexico and Puerto Rico, still needs to hold formal talks with Cuba.

“This is a big hurdle to overcome,” Hinson said of the license, adding that he is very thankful.

Before a timeline can be firmed up, he added, there are hurdles to overcome: All the ships have to be compliant with U.S. Coast Guard requirements and Homeland Security issues, as well as meet Cuban standards.

“Nothing’s to say it couldn’t happen by September-October,” Hinson said.

The ride from Miami — about 225 miles — would take about 10 hours by ferry, he added, estimating a round-trip ticket costing about $250-$300. He said plans include plying passengers with food and possibly casino gaming.

Havana Ferry Partners, meanwhile, said it would seek to launch a ferry route from Key West to Havana, with a vessel that could hold as many as 200 passengers, the Sun Sentinel reported. Other routes could open up from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

The Treasury Department told NBC News that there is still no general license authorizing passenger ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba, and specific licenses are being issued on a case-by-case basis.

Ferry service is the latest example of warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba after President Barack Obama announced last December the two countries are reestablishing business and trade ties following decades of Cold War separation.

While the average American tourist still can’t go to Cuba without meeting certain criteria, overall restrictions have eased.

Earlier this year, direct charter flights began from New York City to Havana. JetBlue announced Tuesday that it is operating a charter flight out of John F. Kennedy International Airport to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport each Friday at noon. The flights can be booked through Cuba Travel Services.


Carnival Corporation Granted US Approval for Travel to Cuba

Carnival Corporation the world’s largest travel and leisure company, today announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce granted approval for the company to begin travel to Cuba. Carnival Corporation intends to take travelers to Cuba beginning in May 2016 via its newly launched fathom brand – a new social impact travel brand providing purpose-oriented, social impact experiences, initially in the Dominican Republic.

Carnival Corporation intends to operate fathom travel itineraries directly to Cuba for the purpose of providing cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens. Authorized under current U.S.-to-Cuba travel guidelines, the new Cuban itineraries on fathom will strictly comply with U.S. Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people. Carnival Corporation is in active discussions and plans to work with the appropriate authorities in Cuba so that Cuban approval is granted.

Launched June 4th as Carnival Corporation’s 10th global brand, fathom is designed as a purpose-driven brand to enrich the lives of its travelers and in the case of the Dominican Republic, drive sustainable social impact on a significant scale. The brand expects to attract 37,000 annual travelers who collectively could spend a total of more than 100,000 days a year either volunteering or immersing in educational and cultural exchanges in local communities.

Beginning in April 2016, fathom will embark on weekly seven-day voyages from Port Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation’s PO Cruises (UK) brand. fathom’s first impact destination will be the northern region of the Dominican Republic, where Carnival Corporation’s new port of call, Amber Cove, will serve as home base.

Following the inaugural April month of voyages to the Dominican Republic, fathom intends to offer both Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a systematic and regular basis, giving travelers the opportunity to choose from two destinations and a range of activities from social impact in the Dominican Republic and educational and cultural exchanges in both countries designed to have a positive, transformative effect on the lives of the travelers.

“We are excited about receiving U.S. approval as the very important first step to ultimately take travelers to Cuba under the existing 12 criteria for authorized travel. We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between U.S. citizens and the people of Cuba a reality,” said Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society. It is also an important opportunity for our new fathom brand to expand its positive influence in the world with this potential to add full-week immersion sailings to Cuba to its already planned full-week social-impact itineraries to the Dominican Republic beginning in the spring of 2016.”

Tara Russell, president of fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation, added: “We’re incredibly excited and humbled by this potential opportunity to help travelers experience the amazing beauty and culture of Cuba, while being able to provide educational and cultural exchange activities that will benefit both the traveler and the Cuban people. After establishing the Dominican Republic as our first partner destination, Cuba represents an important step for us to expand our ability to offer meaningful and enriching experiences to purpose-driven travelers. Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis. We are looking forward to building what we intend to be a beautiful and lasting friendship with the Cuban people.”

Led by Russell’s strong background in social entrepreneurship, fathom seeks to develop lasting social impact partnerships that allow for meaningful personal enrichment of the traveler, while providing systematic, long-term educational, environmental and economic development benefits in its partner countries.

“We’re very interested in exploring the prospects of expanding our partnership with fathom to include Cuba, building new impact programs and lending our assistance to strengthen existing initiatives that will help educational, cultural and humanitarian efforts already going on in Cuba,” said David Luther, founder and executive director of IDDI, a non-profit organization with the mission to help alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas in the Caribbean. “IDDI has long-standing relationships in Cuba and more than a decade of experience working on the ground side-by-side with local officials to make a positive impact in Cuban communities. Nothing else like fathom exists to bring hundreds of like-minded travelers a week to communities of people who need ongoing support. With fathom and its travelers, the potential for making a lasting impact in people’s lives is tremendous. We look forward to partnering closely with fathom to take our programs to the next level, and support growth and prosperity for the citizens of Cuba.”

Travelers may reserve travel on future fathom voyages

Prices for the seven-day trip to the Dominican Republic start at $1,540 per person, which includes an exterior cabin with a view, all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, three on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees, and port expenses. Prices will vary by season.

Prices for seven-day itineraries to Cuba start at $2,990 per person, excluding taxes, port and other government and related fees, and including all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences and certain on-the-ground cultural immersion activities.

About Carnival Corporation plcCarnival Corporation plc is the largest cruise company in the world, with a portfolio of 10 cruise brands in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, PO Cruises (Australia), PO Cruises (UK) and fathom.

Together, these brands will operate 100 ships in 2015 totaling 219,000 lower berths with eight new ships scheduled to be delivered between 2016 and 2018. Carnival Corporation plc also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour companies in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. Traded on both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, Carnival Corporation plc is the only group in the world to be included in both the SP 500 and the FTSE 100 indices.

Additional information can be found on www.carnival.com, www.hollandamerica.com, www.princess.com, www.seabourn.com, www.aida.de, www.costacruise.com, www.cunard.com, www.pocruises.com.au, www.pocruises.com and www.fathom.org.


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SOURCE Carnival Corporation plc

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How To Go To Cuba Right Now: A Travel Primer

I have wanted to go Cuba ever since the precise moment I first learned that I couldn’t. Yes, there’s a wider appeal—the growling vintage cars, their original parts replaced a dozen times over with whatever scraps their owners could get their hands on. The gorgeous, crumbling buildings, like intricately crafted birthday cakes dropped in the dirt and left to bake in the sun for decades. The tepid Caribbean waters bordered by white sand beaches, unencumbered by sun-blotting mega-resorts or cruise ships. Its layered, stranger-than-fiction history. But mostly? There’s nothing more alluring than a Keep Out sign.

When President Obama announced last December that U.S. relations with Cuba would finally be normalized, I was just one of many Americans whose pulses thumped in anticipation. But what did that really mean? Information to basic questions eluded me. Was travel to Cuba as easy as buying a ticket online, an option available since April?

What you’ll find below is a guide borne of my personal experience traveling to Cuba for a week at the end of May. I do not pretend to know how your trip will unfold, nor the hurdles you’ll encounter. But here are some answers to the many, many questions I had before I left.

Getting Your Ticket

I bought a roundtrip ticket ($890, total) on CheapAir.com, and from the moment I hit “confirm,” I was riddled with anxiety. Was that…it? Could that be it? For visiting a country that was, at the time, still officially listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, the process seemed too simple. A day or so later, I got an email from an employee at Cuba Travel Services, asking me to send over copies of my travel documents, along with $85 for my visa. For the purpose of my visit, I checked “journalistic activity,” though my visa ultimately identified me only as a tourist. I brought my NYPD-issued press credentials just in case, but was never asked to show it. Do with this information what you will.

I flew out of JFK on Sun Country, and touched down at José Martí International Airport three hours later. Sun Country operates direct flights from NYC to Cuba on Tuesdays only. As of next month, JetBlue began will begin operating direct flights on Fridays.

What To Expect When You Arrive at Check-In

I arrive at airports extremely early, for the simple reason that there’s no faster or more inane way to destroy a trip than missing a flight. My heart leapt out of my mouth and onto the floor only once during the check-in process, and that was when an airport employee seemed perplexed that I didn’t already have my ticket and visa. Turns out I was among the first travelers to book my ticket online, and the issue was cleared up in short order.

From there, I was funneled to another line, where I paid a $25 departure tax. I was given a receipt, and though I was careful to save it, I don’t recall it being checked upon my return.

Hold on to your visa like grim death, as you will need to provide it to the proprietors at each establishment you stay. I can’t tell you what happens if you lose it, but I imagine it will be on par with a lost passport, and probably require sacrificing half a day in the lobby of the U.S. Interests Section building.

What To Expect When You Arrive in Cuba

The only question asked of me when I arrived at Cuban customs was whether I had traveled to West Africa lately. After I said no, I was asked whether I wanted my passport stamped, to which I responded with a reluctant yes. Would I ever be allowed back on U.S. soil? Would I spend the rest of my life in exile, an enemy of the state? (The short and unromantic answers are yes and no, respectively.) It is at customs that you’ll also get your first taste of Cuba’s ideas of “appropriate business attire”: The uniform for female customs agents consists of skintight miniskirts the color of sand, paired with black floral net lace tights. Alarmingly, the uniform for school children is roughly the same.

Understanding Cuban Spanish

Cuban Spanish sounds just like normal Spanish, plus a mouth full of rocks. Cubans not only don’t bother with the “s’s” at the end of words, they also banish other letters and sometimes whole syllables as well. If you speak fluent Spanish, you’ll probably find their accent strange and garbled, but semi-intelligible. If your Spanish is middling, I’d start fine-tuning your hand gestures. Beware: Unlike most Latin American countries you’ve probably been to, Cubans will not switch to English after you’ve made your perfunctory attempt at butchering their language. The two of you will struggle, together, until someone either gets what the other is saying, or one of you dies. The phrase “más despacio, por favor” will come in handy.

Endear yourself to your new Cuban friends by saying “Que bolá?” for “What’s up?” If you’re impressed or amused by something, you can use “Que chévere!” which means, essentially, “Cool!” I picked this one up in Ecuador but was surprised to learn it works in Cuba, too.

Everybody’s Hustling

The ease of your trip will be directly tied to two things: Your Spanish skills (for negotiating purposes) and your vigilance. Cubans are quick to tell you how safe their country is, likely because the penalty for harassing a foreigner is extremely harsh. But this is a country equipped with its own tourist currency (see below), which is only to say: If you try to pay a tab given to you in Cuban pesos using Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs, or kooks), you’re probably going to find the exchange rate does not work in your favor.

Expect to drastically overpay for some things (cabs) and make it back with others (a pile of food for less than a dollar.)

(Tod Seelie/Gothamist)

Learn the Difference between CUCs and Cuban Pesos

The short answer is that CUCs are roughly (but not quite) pegged to the dollar. As of this precise moment, one dollar is worth 26.5 Cuban pesos. CUCs can be used for most things: Your casa or hotel, food in restaurants, cab rides. You will, however, want some pesos on hand for buying things that actual Cubans buy, like street food, street beers (yes), street rum (yesss) and paying for colectivos (see below). Attempting to pay for such items in CUCs is usually possible, but will almost always result in you getting short-changed.

In addition to having a fistful of pesos, be sure to also get small CUC bills when changing money. Trying to break a 20 CUC on a side street in Vedado is not only difficult, it makes you feel like a bloated American fat cat idiot.

Bring All the Cash

Among the peskier aspects of the blockade is that none of your U.S.-based credit or debit cards will work in Cuba. This means that you have to bring all the cash you will need. I would recommend separating it, and carrying the bulk of it in a money belt. Is carrying that much money on your person terrifying? Yes. Do you have a choice? Not so much. (I have read that some hotels and banks take American traveler’s checks, but I did not try it, and probably would not be comfortable taking the risk.)

Getting Around

Cuba is equipped with three main transit options: Public buses, colectivos and cabs. Colectivos are essentially dollar vans like those seen on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, but instead of being windowless utility vans, they are baller vintage cars. If you aren’t buoyed by a nostalgic wave of Americana every time you crawl into roomy backseat of a mutant 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire, you have no soul. Colectivos zip up and down the main streets of Havana—just tell the driver when you want out. The price is generally 1 CUC.

Cabbies will gouge you—the times I crapped out and took a cab, I usually paid around 5 CUCs.

On Hand Sanitizer and Tissue

I am not abundantly germaphobic, and I am certainly not the type to whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer after riding a public bus or shaking someone’s hand. But I will tell you this: I was glad I had some on me. In some cases, tonier establishments will have a bathroom attendant on hand to give you a wad of toilet paper as you enter. In many cases, that attendant is absent or asleep or otherwise not really in the mood to help you out. (Leave a tip in the basket anyway.) Soap is something I came across maybe half the time.

(Tod Seelie/Gothamist)

Don’t Drink the Water (But If You Do, You’ll Probably Be OK)

An extension of being not terribly germaphobic is that I am also not very careful with what I ingest. This laissez fair attitude toward gastronomic safety has actually served me strangely well: I’ve had food poisoning only twice, and only in highly industrialized nations. (Germany and Holland.) When it came to drinking water in Cuba, I’d exercised my usual semi-vigilance for the duration of the trip, but on my second to last night there, I guess I got too comfortable and, forgetting myself, swallowed two gulps of water while brushing my teeth. I remained in a state of utter panic for around 30 minutes, until a Cuban friend arrived at our casa before heading out to drinks.

IdrankthewaterhowmuchtimedoIhavebeforeIdie?” I rasped before he’d fully made it in the door. “You’ll be fine,” he spat. “This isn’t Mexico.” Perhaps it was the grapefruit seed extract I’d poured down my throat. Perhaps it’s because I have the stomach of a battle-hardened goat. But he was right. I was fine. Still, Cuban tap water has a different pH and microbial content than what you’re used to, so be careful.

Download Some Apps

You can find Internet in Cuba, but it is slow, crappy and will cost you a fortune. (For example, an hour on the creaky PCs in the Riviera Hotel lobby will set you back 8 CUCs.) Why not enjoy your time away from the shrill demands of Instagram and just unplug, maaan?

Your phone, however, can come in handy even absent wifi. Conoce Cuba provides an offline map. (You can also find maps in fancier Habana Vieja hotels.) Also consider downloading an offline Spanish-English dictionary.

Can I Charge My Phone?

Yes. Power outlets are the same.

(Tod Seelie/Gothamist)

Where Should I Stay?

Airbnb became available in April, though of course, getting hosts to respond is more time consuming than in other parts of the world, due to the absence of Internet. I used the site to book a place in Vedado near the Malecón for my first two nights, and it worked out just fine.

The city is also filled with casas particulares that usually run around 30 CUCs per night. Casas are denoted by a small white signs bearing a symbol that looks something like a blue anchor. I stayed in three—two in Vedado, one in Habana Vieja. Each was ancient but clean and delightful in their own ways.

As far as neighborhoods, two popular options are Habana Vieja, which is decrepit, bustling and beautiful, but also very touristy, and Vedado, which I prefer: Its streets are quieter and more verdant, but the hip late-night hang-outs and clubs tend to be there.

What Can I Bring Back?

You can bring back $100 worth of Cuban goods—I, like all sane people, blew that $100 on Havana Club rum and cigars. I was honest about my purchases on my declaration form, but no one checked my bags.

What Should I Expect Coming Back?

Despite checking a box indicating that I was traveling for journalistic activity, nobody batted an eye. At customs back on U.S. soil, the agent’s only question for me was, I shit you not, “Did you have fun?” Another agent collecting health forms asked where I had gone. “Cuba,” I said, girding for some form of protest. “Huh, he said, more to himself than me. “I didn’t know people were going there now.”

(Tod Seelie/Gothamist)

Click here to read last week’s coverage of our excursion to Cuba. We’ll have other vital information, like Where To Party In Havana, available in the coming weeks.

How to save money for vacation from 11 travel experts – Las Vegas Review

Summer travel season is right around the corner, a time of year when many Americans take a break from work and school for some much-needed RR. For those of us planning on taking a vacation this summer, the time off doesn’t come cheap — American Express reports the average person spends about $1,145 on summer travel.

To help vacationers who want to know how to save money for vacation this season, no matter where their travels take them, GOBankingRates asked the top travel and personal finance experts for their best money-saving travel tips. From using social media to score last-minute flight deals to which cities are surprisingly affordable, check out what expert travelers from the Travel Channel, Budget Travel and more have to say about how to save money for vacation travel plans.

How to Save Money for Vacation This Summer: 20 Expert Tips

1. Skip hotels for short-term vacation rentals

La Carmina, a top travel blogger and TV host, has found a happy medium between pricey hotels and crowded hostels. “Consider short-term apartment rentals,” she told us. “I’ve been able to rent spacious apartments in central locations for the price of a hostel stay.”

2. Shop “mistake fares”

La Carmina had another great tip on how to save money for vacation: Use an airline’s mistake to your advantage. “Look out for mistake fares, which is when airlines accidentally list their ticket prices for far lower than normal,” she said. “These can result in amazing deals, but you have to act fast. I booked my dad a round-trip Vancouver to Hong Kong flight for $640.”

Not sure where to find these great deals? “You can keep track of these mistake fares on Twitter, Facebook groups and forums dedicated to ‘travel hacking,’” La Carmina said.

3. Have flexible travel dates and locations

Johnny Jet, the popular blogger and travel expert, plans his travel around which days and airports are offering the best prices. “My best tip is to be flexible,” he told us. “Not only with dates (fly Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday) but times and airports. This is the best way to save on travel.”

4. Book 57 days before a domestic flight and 171 days for international

Kwin Mosby, managing producer on the Travel Channel, shared some inside information with GOBankingRates on just when ticket prices are at their cheapest. In addition to telling us Tuesdays or Sundays are the best days to book flights, he also said, “Remember, ticket prices are usually at their lowest 57 days before departure for domestic flights and 171 days before departure for international trips.”

5. Purchase a Brazil Air Pass

Mosby also offered a great tip on how to visit Brazil on a budget. “See more of Brazil for cheaper by purchasing the Brazil Air Pass, offered by GOL and TAM Airlines,” he told us. “It allows fliers to book four flights for about $500 (taxes and fees not included).”

6. Stay in your connecting city

Kristin Wong, personal finance writer and founder of Brokepedia, had a fairly controversial piece of budget travel advice for how to save money on vacation: “Sometimes it’s cheaper to book a flight where your destination city is actually the flight’s connecting city,” she said. “So if you’re flying to Phoenix from New York, you might actually find a cheaper flight from New York to LA with a stop in Phoenix.”

If you aren’t sure how to book this type of flight, Wong added, “There’s a site called Skiplagged that finds these flights for you. It’s not an illegal practice, but the airlines hate it. In fact, a couple of them are suing Skiplagged, but the site is still up and running.”

She had one more very helpful piece of advice for travelers using this strategy: “Travel light. You don’t want to check a bag that goes to the destination city when you’re getting off at the stopover!”

7. Keep a separate savings account for travel

Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor in chief at Budget Travel, had a simple tip on how to make saving for travel practically mindless. “Avid travelers should open an old-fashioned passbook savings account at a bank that is not convenient to get to,” he said. “Put a portion of each paycheck away and watch it grow till you’re ready to travel. $100 per month for a year can pay for airfare almost anywhere!”

8. Only use credit cards for free miles, baggage check and member-only travel deals

Firpo-Cappiello also had some advice for travelers looking to take advantage of credit card points and rewards.

“Credit cards are the budget traveler’s best friend and worst enemy,” he told us. “The right airline rewards card will shower you with free rewards points, free baggage check and members-only deals. But never borrow more than you can repay — otherwise you’ll end up paying for your trip many times over.” Whether you travel or not, that’s sound advice everyone should follow.

9. Book a “Round the World” ticket for extra savings.

Jenny McIver, travel writer for Round the World in 30 Days, said sometimes traveling around the world is cheaper than booking a single-destination ticket. “The biggest expense when traveling is always airfare, but many airlines offer free stopovers that allow you to enjoy two destinations for the price of one,” she said. “Or, if you can find a few weeks or more to travel, all of the major airlines and a few specialized ticket brokers offer ‘Round the World’ tickets, which can be an incredible bargain.”

This might sound too good to be true, but McIver is a seasoned world traveler who knows how to score a deal. “I’m currently planning my 10th annual ‘Round the World’ trip, and there’s no better way to see the world on a budget!”

10. Use a trip-planning tool

Ryan Gargiulo, blogger at Pause the Moment, uses an online tool to plan out the details of his vacations. “One of my favorite ways to save money and plan the logistics of my trips is to use a site called Rome2Rio,” he said. “It’s what I’d like to think of as a lesser-known, yet incredibly useful resource when it comes to planning the nitty-gritty details of a trip.”

11. Find cheap airfare on Twitter

Gargiulo offered another quick piece of advice on how to save money for vacation: Use Twitter to find deals on airfare. “A great way to save money on flights is to utilize Twitter lists and follow accounts such as @TheFlightDeal and @FareDealAlert,” he told us. Fire up those smartphones!

12. Do not book hotel rooms from a 1-800 number

Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com‘s consumer savings expert, knows how to work around 1-800 booking numbers to get the best prices on hotel rooms.

She told GOBankingRates, “When booking a room, call the hotel directly and you may have more room to negotiate. A chain’s 1-800booking number is usually working off set rates. … Also, check online and compare the two rates. Often, the lowest price is an online special you can only get by booking online.”

13. Then book a corner room

Pavini added another tip that we hadn’t even heard of yet: “Request a corner hotel room to potentially get more space for the same price.”

14. Rent a car for five days to get a weekly discount rate

Pavini also had some great advice on how to save on car rentals. “Most rentals companies start offering the weekly discount rate when you rent for a minimum of five days,” she said. “It may be worth it to rent the car for longer than you need just to qualify for this discount. I have done this myself and received a better rate for the week rental.”

15. Avoid one-way rentals

Additionally, she told us, “avoid one-way rentals. While most companies let you return a car to any of their locations, you may pay for it. Return the car to the same place you rented it from or pay around twice as much.”

16. Use the “1+1=3” method

Kyle Steward, travel editor for UPGRD.com, books lots of cheap international trips using an easy method he calls “1+1=3.”

“Airlines often compete on certain routes and markets with other carriers,” he explained “If you search flights for July 24-August 1 (high season) from Pittsburgh to Chang Mai, Thailand, you will find the cost to be around $1,600. However, if you fly into another city and add a completely separate itinerary, you can save lots of money.”

Are you a little confused? He explained: “Here is the first itinerary from Pittsburgh to Jakarta. Adding in a separate flight to Chang Mai, the combined total is just $1,223 instead of $1,626, a savings of $403. Further, there is another great benefit to this type of booking. As they are separate tickets, you can visit the first destination as part of your ticket. Usually stopovers are either not allowed or add another $100-250 per ticket. In this method, it’s included.”

If you want to try this “1+1=3″ method, Steward said it works best when traveling from smaller metropolitan areas. “Airlines have to compete on routes like New York City to Milan (five run the direct route) but in Pittsburgh, where there are no

direct options and less choice generally, the prices are higher, even when it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Fortress hubs like Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia will sell non-stops for more money (convenience and a captive audience) then connecting and flying on the same flights.”

17. Use air miles to book two one-way tickets

If you want to use air miles to book your summer travel, then take this piece of advice on how to save money for vacation from Jeffrey Ward, founder and managing partner of Savvy Navigator. “Remember that seats open up 330 days (11 months) ahead of time,” he said. “Book one-way awards exactly on the date that your seats open up for your outbound flight, and then another one-way award for your return trip home, however many days or weeks later from the outbound.”

18. Book a group tour to reduce costs

Discovering a new city on your own can be an adventure, but it can also put a damper on your budget. Use the power of a group to reduce your own travel costs. According to Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours, “Tour operators have significant purchasing power, and quite simply, by going in a group, you spread lots of costs across a group of people.”

19. Travel a few weeks after peak season

Geronemus is also a fan of traveling close to, but not during, peak travel season. “It’s amazing what a difference it can make to go a few weeks after peak season — you can get essentially the same weather and spend a lot less while dealing with fewer tourists at the main attractions,” he told us.

20. Look outside the mainstream destinations.

And if you are going to travel during the off-season, you can save even more by choosing a location that’s slightly off the beaten path.

“Look outside the mainstream destinations — even slightly outside the mainstream,” Geronemus told us. “Rather than paying the premium to go Italy, for example, try looking across the Adriatic to Croatia, which boasts many of the same wonderful qualities at a meaningfully lower price.”

Oftentimes, these locations offer a truly unique travel experience that you just won’t find in a larger, more popular tourist destination.

From GoBankingRates.com: How to save money for vacation from 11 travel experts

Do you need travel insurance? Use this checklist

For some trips, travel insurance is a virtual necessity; for others, it’s worthless. The question boils down to a matter of risk. A basic purpose of any insurance is to mitigate financial risk.

So when you have a travel risk, travel insurance can help. Before you buy, assess your risks. Here are some of the most common ones:

Risk 1: Loss of deposits or prepayments.

You often have to pay in full or provide a stiff deposit months in advance for a cruise, a tour or a vacation rental. And if you have to cancel, you may lose a big chunk of those payments in cancellation penalties and non-refundables. Trip cancellation insurance (TCI) reimburses you for non-recoverable deposits and penalties if you have to cancel before you start.

Risk 2: Extra expenses of returning home before your trip ends.

If you have to abort a trip because something happens to you, your traveling companion or a family member at home, getting home quickly may be expensive. Trip interruption insurance (TII) reimburses the non-recoverable extra costs of returning home early or of continuing as a single traveler if your companion has to return early.

Risk 3: Medical expenses.

If you get sick or suffer an accident when you’re away from home, you may face some stiff immediate medical bills. The main risk occurs when you’re outside the U.S. Your own medical plan may cover you anywhere in the world, but some don’t. Medicare doesn’t cover you outside the U.S., but many Medicare supplements do. In any event, you typically have to shell out big payments on the spot and argue about reimbursement when you return home. Primary travel medical insurance (TMI) pays upfront.

Risk 4: Emergency transport home.

On your trip, if you’re so sick you can’t fly home, or if you fall and break your butt in some remote area, getting you to a hospital in a helicopter or back home on a private jet could cost a fortune. Medical evacuation (ME) insurance pays for any such requirement.

What to buy

You can easily determine the risk of lost prepayments or cancellation penalties. Consider TCI any time you have more advance payments at risk—the net of what you can recover in refunds—than you can comfortably absorb if you have to cancel a trip. The corollary is obvious: Don’t pay to “insure” recoverable payments. TCI is “named peril” insurance that pays for only the contingencies specified in the policy— typically related to sickness and accident, and excluding work-related reasons. That’s why we recommend “cancel for any reason” insurance: It is more expensive but you get to decide whether to cancel, not some insurance company bean counter. TCI policies generally exclude payment for pre-existing medical conditions, but most insurers waive that exclusion if you buy the insurance as soon as you start paying for your trip.

TM and ME are available separately by the trip or in six-month or yearly policies for frequent travelers. We recommend primary TM, so you don’t have to max out your checking account or credit card on the spot. Prices for bundled policies and separate TM and ME policies depend on destination, duration of trip and age. They range from 5% to 15% of your total trip cost—sometimes even more for very senior travelers.

What to avoid

Don’t rely on a tour operator’s or cruise line’s cancellation waiver. It isn’t true insurance; instead, the cruise line or operator agrees to waive its own cancellation penalty. Waivers cover fewer risks, and many limit reimbursement to a credit toward a future booking rather than a cash refund. Similarly, don’t blindly accept a travel supplier’s “opt in” insurance, which may be more expensive than an independent policy or offer insufficient coverage.

How to buy

We recommend buying through one of the several independent online agencies that specialize in travel insurance that provides comprehensive search and comparison systems. Among them:





Trip Insurance Store

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Is travel insurance a waste of money?

U.S. travel to Cuba booming after Obama switch

U.S. travel to Cuba is booming, despite an official ban on tourist travel.

The number of Americans visiting Cuba has risen dramatically — 36 percent — in the first few months of 2015, including a big jump among those flying into the communist nation from third countries like Mexico, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

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From Jan. 1 to May 9 of this year, 51,458 Americans visited the island, according to statistics provided to the AP by Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, an economist at the University of Havana. Of those who have visited so far this year, 38,476 have flown directly, more than the 37,459 total who visited over the same time period in 2014.

This year, 12,982 Americans have traveled to Cuba through another country, a 57 percent increase from the 8,246 who flew into the country from elsewhere during the same period last year.

The boom represents another indication of the thaw in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba that began last December, though travel to Cuba “for tourist activities continues to be prohibited,” a Treasury spokeswoman told the AP. President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions with the country in January and then recommended that Cuba be removed from the U.S. government’s list of state terrorism sponsors.

The overall number of visitors from all countries to Cuba rose 14 percent from this point last year, with more travelers visiting from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain.