UK Aims to Restart Some International Travel for Britons by May 17

David Dyson  / Heathrow Airports Ltd.

A view of Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5C, from the airfield on May 2011. David Dyson / Heathrow Airports Ltd.

Skift Take: Britons will have to wait a bit longer to find out where they can travel starting May 17. But it seems likely they’ll have to consider different destinations than their past preferences, given that the UK government seems likely to loosen restrictions for countries with high vaccination rates.

— Sean O’Neill

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Executive Q&A: Lessons From Azerbaijan on Building a Sustainable Tourism Economy During the Pandemic

Skift Take: Azerbaijan has been growing its tourism economy for the last decade, reaching a record-breaking number of international travelers in 2019. Once the pandemic hit, the country’s tourism board realized they could use this time to emerge even stronger, thanks to Azerbaijan’s offerings that are equipped for a post-Covid-19 world.

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The Fantastic Treefrog in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park

Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp lies on the border of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Southern Tanzania.

These forested mountains form part of the Eastern Arc Mountain Range which are known as the ‘Galapagos of Africa‘ owing to their high degree of endemism – they cover less than 2% of the land area but include more then 50% of the country’s plant and animal species. Over 300 endemic animals and over 800 endemic plants have been found in the Eastern Arc.

The Udzungwas form one one of Africa’s most remarkable biodiversity hotspots and walking them is a memorable experience. The habitats contained within the national park include tropical rainforest, mountain forest, miombo woodland, grassland and steppe.

Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania
Udzungwa Mountains National Park

Animals found in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park

The Udzungwa Mountains are a primate hotspot with five Tanzanian endemics to be found;

  • the newly discovered Highland Mangeby (found in Ndundulu Forest),
  • the Sanje Crested Mangeby,
  • the Iringa Red Colobus,
  • the Matundu Dwarf Galago and
  • the Mountain Dwarf Galago.

Other primates include the Vervet Monkey, Sykes Monkey, Black and White Colobus, Yellow Baboon, Grant’s Galago, Small-eared Galago, and greater Galago.

Other mammal species are headed by the recently rediscovered Lowe’s Servaline Genet, which was photographed for the first time in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. It was previously seen some 70 years ago and evidence was limited to a single skin.

Other mammal species to be found in the Udzungwa Mountains include: Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Bushbuck, Sable, Greater Kudu, Harvey’s Red Duiker, Bush Duiker, Palm Civets, Miombo Genets, Hyena, Sun Squirrels, Climbing Mice, Spiny Mice, Pouched Rats, Elephants Shrews, Shrews and Hippo.

The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is among the top ten areas for bird conservation in Africa (IBA) with over 250 bird species. The Udzungwa Mountains are also home to several Tanzanian endemic birds including Rufous Winged Sunbird and the Udzungwa Partridge.

Within the Udzungwa Mountains National Park there is also a huge and diverse range of endemic butterflies, amphibians and reptiles including the Pygmy Bearded Chameleon. 

And, of course, the fantastic tree frog! 🙂

Book to stay at Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp

Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp provides accommodation with a restaurant, a bar, a garden, and barbecue facilities.

Book your stay here.


UK Prime Minister to Offer New Details for International Travel

Skift

UK Prime Minister will offer details on Monday that could eventually mean this empty corridor at Heathrow Airport will soon seen more travelers looking to go abroad. Skift

Skift Take: Boris Johnson is poised to offer some long-awaited good news for the UK, which has suffered frustrating starts and stops during the pandemic. Vaccine rollouts are turning the story positive.

— Tom Lowry

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Travel Hacking 101: How to Earn Free Flights and Free Hotel Stays

Travel hacking first class 2

*This is a guest post from Matt Kepnes, the popular blogger and fellow traveler behind NomadicMatt.com

I love budget travel. Finding deals, saving money, and heading out into the world with just a backpack is an amazing feeling. And with the advent of the sharing economy, budget airlines, and detailed travel blogs to help you plan better, travel has never been more accessible or affordable.

But that doesn’t mean travel is always affordable.

Plane tickets still cost hundreds of dollars (if not more). Hostel stays add up. Insurance, gear, and getting from city to city can eat into even the most frugal of budgets.

Fortunately, there’s a way to cut costs drastically — without sacrificing comfort and without spending any extra money either. 

It’s called travel hacking.

Travel hacking is the art of collecting points and miles that you can redeem for free flights and free hotel stays (as well as many other perks). Best of all? You can do it with no additional spending!

I’ve been travel hacking for years. It’s what has allowed me to travel on a budget for so long. I’ve enjoyed countless free flights, free upgrades, and hotel stays because of it — and all with just my regular spending. As long as you can pay off your monthly credit card bill, you can start earning free travel today.

To help you save money and travel the world for free, here’s everything you need to know to start traveling hacking:

 

1. Figure out your travel goals

Before you start comparing credit card deals and researching airline transfer partners, you need to figure out what your priorities are.

Are you looking for a free flight, or do you want to prioritize free hotel stays?

Do you fly the same airline regularly? Certain airlines have their own credit cards (as well as specific transfer partners), so knowing what airline you will fly can help you optimize your point earnings.

Are you aiming for upgrades to business class or first class, or do you just want a free economy flight?

Are you saving up for a trip to a specific destination?

There’s no single perfect card, so start by writing down your travel goals in order to align them with the credit card that will serve you best. Each card has different transfer partners and different perks, so knowing your goals will help you find the one that has the best rewards for you and your goals.

 

2. Look for cards with a huge welcome bonus

The best travel credit cards offer a large welcome bonus designed to entice you to sign up. These offers are usually tens of thousands of points, which roughly translate to a free flight right off the bat.

However, to earn the welcome offer, you need to meet a minimum spending requirement. These vary from card to card but are usually around $4,000 within the first three months,

If your regular spending (gas, groceries, eating out, miscellaneous expenses, etc.) cover that, then you’re on your way to free travel. 

But what if you don’t usually spend that much? 

If you don’t think you will meet the requirements for the minimum spend, ask friends and family if they have any large purchases coming up. That way, you can pay for them on your new card and they can pay you back. (This can be done on an ongoing basis, not just to get your welcome bonus.)

When comparing welcome bonuses, look for cards offering 50,000 points or more. Here are some resources to help you get started:

If you’re not from the US, this may be more difficult. However, there are still lots of cards and resources out there for you. Here are travel hacking resources for non-Americans:

Once you’ve reviewed your options, apply for the best card that suits your needs and spending habits.

 

3. Optimize your spending to earn more points

Now that you’ve got your first travel card, it’s time to maximize the rewards you can earn. 

First, get into the habit of putting all your expenses on your new travel card. Buying dinner? Use your travel card. Getting gas or groceries? Use your travel card. Need a pack of gum? Put it on your credit card. No expense is too big or too small; put it all on the card because you need every single point you can get! 

If you have more than one travel credit card, make sure you understand which card is best for each purchase. Most cards offer extra points for specific spending categories (travel, restaurants, groceries, etc.). To ensure you earn the most points, always use the right card for the right spending category.

Moreover, you can also use airline shopping portals to boost your rewards. Most hotels, airlines, and travel brands have preferred merchants. These companies — ranging from clothing companies to office supply businesses to sporting goods stores — partner with these portals to boost sales. 

By ordering through these online shopping portals, you can often earn double or triple what you would earn by visiting the store in person or using the merchant’s regular shopping website. 

For example, say you need supplies from Home Depot. Going into the nearest Home Depot store will earn you one point per dollar spent on your travel card. However, by using sites like Cash Back Monitor or Evreward to find deals, you might discover that by purchasing online through an airline shopping portal, you will earn three points per dollar spent. So, if you spend $100, that’s 300 points instead of 100. Not bad!

To find the best deals, simply visit Evreward or Cash Back Monitor, type in the product you want, and you’ll see a list of bonuses the various point programs are offering at that moment, so can you know which portals to purchase from.

So, with a little planning and organization, you can easily level up your travel hacking and get yourself much closer to earning that free flight.

To start out, I would focus on the following (and in this order): 

1. Maximizing category bonuses 

2. Using shopping portals 

3. Using dining portals 

4. Asking friends and family to put purchases on your card 

While there are more advanced tactics you can employ to boost your earnings (called “manufactured spending”), I would stick to these basics for now. They will be more than enough to get you a free flight!

 

Travel hacking Matt first class

 

4. Ready to travel? Consolidate your points first

If you have points and miles spread out over multiple accounts, remember to consolidate them into one program before you book your trip. 

How?

Most travel credit cards have multiple partners you can transfer your points to. This allows you to consolidate your points for maximum rewards. 

For example, if you’re looking to book a Star Alliance flight (let’s say Lufthansa) and you have Chase points as well as American Express points, you can transfer both of those to Air Canada or Singapore Airlines (both of which are part of Star Alliance) and then use their loyalty program to book the Lufthansa flight you want. (Chase doesn’t transfer directly to Lufthansa.)

It’s for this reason that it’s important to outline a goal in the beginning of this process. That way, you can avoid spreading your rewards too thin over too many cards. By focusing your rewards on cards that have viable transfer partners, you can earn rewards faster and easier.

 

5. Enjoy the perks of travel hacking

In addition to free flights and hotel stays, the best travel credit cards offer all kinds of other perks: lounge access, priority boarding, discounts on car rentals or rideshares, free baggage checks, free upgrades, free DoorDash deliveries, no foreign transaction fees, free supplemental travel insurance — the list goes on.

Before you hit the road, make sure you understand the perks your card offers. Remember, travel hacking isn’t just about saving money and earning free travel; it’s about improving your entire travel experience!

 

A Note on Credit Scores

Travel hacking will not hurt your credit score as long as you continue to pay off your monthly balance. By doing so, you avoid super high interest rates while enjoying all the perks your card has to offer.

Credit cards are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. They are only bad if you spend more money than you have. That’s not what travel hacking is about. I have over 25 credit cards, and I’ve never had a problem getting a new card or any other type of loan — because I never spend more than I earn.

To maintain a good credit score, here are a few things to consider (besides paying off the balance in full each month):

  • Don’t apply for a lot of cards at once. To avoid being declined, limit yourself to three cards at a time.
  • After getting a new card (or cards), wait a few months before applying for more. Applying for new credit cards causes a temporary drop in your credit score. However, after 2–3 months, your score goes right back up.
  • Don’t apply for a lot of credit cards less than six months of applying for a mortgage, refinancing your home, or taking out a personal loan, as that will negatively affect your credit score.
  • Don’t cancel no-fee cards! Since the length of your credit history is a factor, if a card doesn’t have a yearly fee, just leave it open as an “anchor” for your credit score.
  • If you are going to cancel a card because of an annual fee, try to get the card moved to a no-fee version instead of canceling. Many credit card companies do this, which protects your credit score from the effects of a cancelation.

To help you decide what card is best for you based on your credit score, use this chart as a guide: 

Credit card guide

***

While cheap travel is great, free travel is even better. Don’t leave money on the table and miss out on amazing perks and discounts. By leveraging the benefits of best travel credit cards, you can open the door to all kinds of adventures and opportunities — all without any extra spending.

Don’t leave your travel dreams on the backburner. Start travel hacking today and make those travel dreams an affordable reality!

Matt Kepnes runs the award-winning travel site nomadicmatt.com, which helps people travel the world on a budget. He’s the author of the NYT best-seller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and the travel memoir Ten Years a Nomad. His writings and advice have been featured on CNN and the BBC and in the New York Times, The Guardian, Lifehacker, Budget Travel, Time, and countless other publications. You can follow him on Instagram at @nomadicmatt. When he’s not on the road, he lives in Austin, Texas.

 

The post Travel Hacking 101: How to Earn Free Flights and Free Hotel Stays appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Canadian Tour Operator Transat Is Still in Play After Air Canada Deal Falls Apart

 Brent Lewin  / Bloomberg

An Air Transat aircraft sits at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday July 3, 2013. Air Canada abandoned its proposed acquisition of the tour operator when the European Commission said it would face stiff regulatory hurdles. Brent Lewin / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Transat’s drawn-out acquisition saga, which began in 2019, will have a new chapter now that the European Commission indicated Air Canada’s purchase of the major tour operator/airline wouldn’t pass regulatory muster. Transat needs a funding infusion to survive, and it’s clear that the Canadian government has an interest in keeping the business afloat.

— Dennis Schaal

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Air France-KLM Gets Shrewd About Fares and 9 Other Top Travel Stories This Week

Air France-KLM

An Air France A350. Parent company Air France-KLM has been fine-tuning its pricing strategies. Air France-KLM

Skift Take: In Skift’s top travel stories this week, we looked at changes in Air France-KLM’s pricing strategies, Vrbo’s attempt to woo disgruntled Airbnb hosts, Nashville’s tourism strategy, and the Delta’s reversal and the state of Georgia’s new voter suppression law.

— Dennis Schaal

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