Amanda Mactas is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Bella Magazine, Women's Health, The Daily Meal, PureWow, and many more.
The 10 most underrated beach towns in America
Everywhere you turn these days, there’s a news story about the busy travel season ahead—Airports are crowded! TSA is overwhelmed! Flights are canceled! We don’t mean to alarm you but your favorite summer destinations will be congested this year. The better travel option? Finding somewhere cool that’s somewhat undiscovered, such as our picks of the top underrated beach towns in the U.S. You’ll catch plenty of rays, splash around on some very pristine shorelines and avoid the crowds, which is all anybody really wants on vacation. Think no lines to get into places, no reservations required to dine and no wait should you decide to show up somewhere at the last minute because anything else would be a waste of your precious time off.
Royal Caribbean unveils an adults-only beach on its private Caribbean island
Slated to open in January 2024, Royal Caribbean International has unveiled a sneak peek at its adults-only private island escape, Hideaway Beach. Located on Perfect Day at CocoCay, Hideaway Beach is open for vacationers 18 years of age and older, complete with two pools, 20 cabanas, a private beach (obviously, and seven open-air bars and food hubs. Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, explains that Hideaway Beach “is a completely new vibe and experience.” He continues, “Everything from its hidden-like location to the exclusive beach and pools to the private cabanas is designed for adults who want a day just for them.” Beachgoers can enjoy games in the sand and pumped-up beats thanks to the pool’s live DJ. Ultimate relaxation awaits, from the lounge chairs to the in-water hammocks & swings to the swim-up bar. Those who opt to rent out a cabana will receive an array of amenities, including a cabana attendant, mini-fridge, charging outlets, and floating beach mats. Al fresco bars are equipped with TVs, live music, and classic bar games like pool and shuffleboard to take entertainment to the next level. The beach's many bars and food concepts have all your frozen and fruity favorites—expect Mai Tais and daiquiris galore. Additionally, those who opt into The Hideout will receive exclusive access to additional cabanas with a more VIP experience. Think heated infinity plunge pool, outdoor shower, cabana attendants, and more. This new addition to Perfec
It's official: This is the best U.S. airline for families
The best airline for families was recently announced on MONEY’s 2023 Travel Awards list. Southwest Airlines took home the top prize for family airline travel, most notably making it convenient and easy for families to sit together. The airline does not provide seat assignments, meaning families traveling together can board the plane early and choose seats near one another. Additionally, Southwest doesn’t charge travelers for switching or canceling flights, making it pretty seamless to switch your travel plans around should any last-minute changes pop up. For those traveling with young children, flexibility is paramount. Travelers flying Southwest Airlines are also allowed two free checked bags, making it more affordable for those flying with children and all the extra baggage they require (no pun intended). Plus, family-friendly content is available for free on the airline’s Inflight Entertainment Portal. Vice President of Marketing at Southwest Airlines, Jonathan Clarkson, commented, “We know families traveling together are looking for a comfortable and smooth travel experience, and our People take great pride in delivering their legendary Hospitality every step of the way.” Photograph: Shutterstock
Delta Air Lines is limiting visits to its airport lounges
Delta recently announced major changes to its SkyMiles program and major restrictions to Sky Club access. Beginning February 1, 2025, limitations will be placed on how many times per year select cardholders can access the Sky Club. Amex Platinum and Business Platinum Card holders will be allowed only six visits yearly, a marked change from the previously unlimited number of visits cardholders could enjoy. Slightly more privileges lie with Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business cardholders, who will be allowed a whopping (that’s sarcasm) 10 visits annually. Centurion Card holders can rest easy as they can continue enjoying unlimited access to the Sky Club. Beginning January 1, 2024, those who fly in Basic Economy, regardless of Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business status, will not be eligible for Sky Club access. You’ll have to pony up the big bucks to gain access to the elusive club. If you spend $75,000 or more during the calendar year, fly on Delta One Business Class, or purchase a Sky Club membership, you can receive unlimited access to the Sky Club—quite a price to pay for a quiet place to sit. When speaking to the extreme changes in Sky Club access, Delta’s website states, “Our priority is to balance the popularity of the Delta Sky Club experience with the premium atmosphere and service we wish to provide for our guests.” With many people returning to travel post-pandemic, Delta is seeing higher volumes of Delta Sky Club visitors, resulting in crowded space
Revealed: These are the best colleges and universities in the U.S.
Every year, U.S. News & World Report releases its definitive rankings of the best colleges in the United States. Analyzing 1,500 colleges and universities throughout the country, the rankings consider an array of factors, including outcomes for graduating students, social mobility, and graduation rates, to name a few. However, this year marks a noted change in some of the study’s determining factors. Most notably, class size, alumni giving, faculty with terminal degrees, high school standing and the proportion of graduates who take out federal loans have been removed from determining college rankings. “The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them,” explained executive chairman and CEO of U.S. News, Eric Gertler. So, what schools fared the best in this year’s new ranking system? Best National Universities Princeton University Massachusetts Institute of Technology Harvard University and Stanford University (tie) Top Public Schools University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles (tie) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Best National Liberal Arts Colleges Williams College Amherst College United States Naval Academy For the full list of rankings and a database of advice on college applications and admissions, head to USNews.com.
Maui welcomes back travelers next month—but only to a certain area
After the devastating wildfires that ravaged Maui last month, the island discouraged travelers from coming to the tropical destination. While Lāhainā, the primary impact zone of the wildfires, will remain closed to visitors, Governor Josh Green recently signed an emergency proclamation lifting the travel ban for those visiting the remaining areas of West Maui. Starting October 8th, travelers will be able to visit Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua, the other areas of West Maui that weren’t in the direct path of the wildfires. The decision to reopen comes after an estimated loss of more than $350 million in revenue to the island. “The loss from business closures and visitor expenditures is estimated to be $11 million a day on Maui since August 9, 2023,” a press release from the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism stated. Many island locals are relieved at the announcement of tourism resuming in the coming month. Countless small businesses have floundered following the shutdown due to the wildfires, many of which were still recovering from COVID shutdowns in the years prior. Resorts such as Hotel Wailea and Four Seasons Maui even incentivize tourists to return, offering donations to local foundations for every booking purchased. While safety remains a priority, helping those in need is always a good look.
These are the best and worst airports for cheap flights in the U.S.
Everybody loves a good deal. And nothing is quite as exciting as jetting off to a faraway destination on the cheap. Going.com analyzed airports all over the country to determine which airports are notorious for price gouging and which ones love giving passengers a good deal. Surprisingly, a majority of the airports most likely to give you a good deal traveling within the country reside on the West Coast. “Some airports simply see more frequent flight deals than others,” stated Going.com Founder and CEO Scott Keyes. This is due to various factors, including how much competition routes from that airport have and how many airlines are available at the airport. Los Angeles Airport wins the title of the cheapest airport flight, with an average round trip costing $185. Airports with the Cheapest Domestic Flights: Los Angeles (LAX) San Francisco (SFO) Las Vegas (LAS) Denver (DEN) Austin (AUS) Boston (BOS) Chicago (ORD) Orlando (MCO) Seattle (SEA) Phoenix (PHX) Alternatively, the airports that offer the most expensive domestic flights and the least amount of monthly deals include: Columbia (CAE) Panama City (ECP) Knoxville (TYS) Albany (ALB) Dayton (DAY) Honolulu (HNL) Birmingham (BHM) Grand Rapids (GRR) Fresno (FAT) Greensboro (GSO) Columbia Metropolitan Airport, located in South Carolina, takes first place here, with $200 average round-trip flights. Keep these stats in mind when thinking about booking your upcoming travel. Nearby alternative airports might help you save money.
Here's why you should buy travel insurance as soon as you book
We get it. Not everyone wants to shell out their hard-earned cash on travel insurance. With the already high prices of flights, hotels, and all travel-related costs, it can seem counterintuitive to spend even more just in case something happens. But things do happen and it pays to pony up on travel insurance. According to Yonder Travel Insurance, the advantages of purchasing travel insurance early on outweigh any disadvantages. Most beneficially, early bookings for travel insurance give travelers Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) coverage. This allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason at all (even reasons not typically covered by other policies). Still, this coverage can only be purchased within a certain timeframe of your first trip payment. Additionally, those who book travel insurance within a specific timeframe (usually within 14 days of the initial trip deposit) are also eligible for Pre-Existing Condition Waivers. For those with underlying health conditions, this policy allows coverage on any medical claims while traveling, which are often not covered. Equally as compelling when booking early travel insurance policies is Travel Supplier Bankruptcy coverage. If any tour operator or airline goes bankrupt after booking your trip, this coverage will save you from financial loss. With travel instability these days, you can never be too prepared. Luckily, there are options to ensure that your travel goes as smoothly as possible.
Everything you need to know about Emirates’ premium economy
Those who want an elevated flight experience but can’t quite shell out all the cash necessary to score business and first-class tickets can now opt for Emirates’ middle-of-the-line premium economy option. Originally debuted in August 2022, the premium economy class is available on the airline’s double-decker Airbus A380 jets. Since its launch, Emirates has increased its fleet to 20 Airbuses with the new premium economy seats. What can passengers expect out of this new class? Located at the front of the lower deck, the 52 premium economy seats are aligned in an updated 2-4-2 configuration. Each seat has a wooden fold-out table, a 13.3-inch seatback LCD screen—with headphone jacks and Bluetooth connectivity—and an adjustable calf rest. Additionally, each seat has 40 inches of pitch, a six-way adjustable headrest, an 8-inch recline, and is 19.5-inches wide. Window seats are furnished with hi-tech electronically adjusted shades, as well. Photograph: Shutterstock/Arnold O. A. PintoEmirates airline's Premium Economy seats on display at 'Arabian Travel Market 2022' international trade show, at Dubai World Trade Centre. Premium economy passengers will enjoy elevated service thanks to the three dedicated flight attendants in the cabin, including a welcome drink. All food and beverage services are served on china and glassware, gourmet menus are updated monthly, and each meal comes with free wine and spirits. Along with the elevated service, passengers can enjoy the comforts of susta
You can turn your hotel points into hard-to-get concert tickets
Traveling sure has its perks—in more ways than one. Marriott’s loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, allows members to earn points from hotel stays that can be applied for discounts on future bookings. However, Marriott Bonvoy’s Moments program also allows members to use those points to score access to events and experiences like concerts, culinary experiences, and sports games. Hot ticket concerts from artists like Madonna, Drake, the Eagles, and Billy Joel are all available through this program and give insiders a sneaky way to snag coveted and hard-to-get tickets. You can search the system via artist or venue and date to see where and when all your favorite performers will be on stage. Other exclusive experiences are available through the rewards program, including a one-on-one with Hot Ones host Sean Evans, an underwater photo expedition with an award-winning photographer, attending a meditation retreat at a Buddhist temple in China, and so much more. So next time you’re counting down the minutes until those tickets go on sale, remember there’s another way to get perks and score that adventure.
These are the top free tourist attractions in the U.S.
Sure, free attractions can be great, but a lot of the time, they’re free for a reason. Luckily, vacation rental company Casago used Tripadvisor to determine the top free attractions in every U.S. state, so you never hit up a dud. “We calculated the percentage of five-star, or ‘excellent,’ reviews for each attraction…we then ranked attractions by the percentage of five-star reviews to isolate the highest rated attractions,” notes the study’s methodology section. Surprisingly, a handful of the top attractions in the country have a military theme, but others include national parks, churches, and art museums. Out of all of the free tourist attractions in the states, these rank among the top ten: National Museum of the U.S. Airforce – Dayton, Ohio National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center – Columbus, Georgia The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Arlington, Virginia Gettysburg National Military Park – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina and Tennessee Marginal Way – Ogunquit, Maine Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis – St. Louis, Missouri Cleveland Museum of Art – Cleveland, Ohio College of the Ozarks – Point Lookout, Missouri Falls Park on the Reedy – Greenville, South Carolina Poor West Coast, maybe you’ll be on the list next year.
Culinary travel is going to be major this fall
Every year, the leading global network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel brings together their advisors, partners, and journalists to discuss emerging travel trends for the coming year. With many exciting tidbits and insights into the travel industry, Virtuoso Travel Week regaled attendees with numerous observations that globetrotters can expect to see in the coming year. Paving the way in travel trends is the rise of culinary travel. Advisors have seen a whopping 70 percent increase in travelers booking trips with a food and wine focus, with baby boomers leading the pack, followed closely by Gen-Xers and millennials. Among the most desirable culinary experiences travelers seek is visiting a brewery or distillery, with 88 percent of culinary travelers booking these excursions. Trying local street food, participating in culinary-themed tours, and booking celebrations with family and friends are also among the top culinary experiences while traveling. Virtuoso also sought to determine some emerging trends among culinary travelers that we can expect to grow in popularity in the coming months and years. Most travelers seek genuine authenticity and cultural immersion in their culinary experiences, with 87 percent of culinary travelers seeking these more provincial encounters. About 53 percent of culinary travelers are into hyper-local dining, while 48 percent want a combination of high/low cuisine. This follows the trend of travelers increasingly seeking m
September brings more rare moon events—here's how to see them
Crane your necks towards the night sky this month to glimpse a handful of rare celestial events, including the year’s final supermoon. First up, on September 3rd, stargazers can spot the moon and Jupiter conjunction around 10:30pm ET. This means that the moon and the planet Jupiter will rise together in the night sky—you won’t even need to grab your telescope to see the duo dance together among the stars. If you missed August’s blue supermoon, you’ll have a chance to glimpse this month’s super harvest moon between September 28 and 29. The supermoon will begin after sunset on the 28th and reach its peak size and brilliance in the early morning of the 29th. Sadly, this marks the final supermoon event of 2023, so make sure to mark your calendar. Not to be outdone by lunar rarities, there are also some non-moon-related night sky happenings throughout the month. During the first half of the month, those in the lower 48 states can spot the comet Nishimura just above the horizon if they’re lucky. Head outside between September 18 and 19 to see Neptune glowing in the night sky. If you’re quick enough, you might just be able to spot the elusive planet Mercury around 9am ET on September 22. And lastly, those who are done with the summer humidity can look forward to the fall equinox, which takes place on September 23rd. Whip out your flannel, boots and PSLs to celebrate.