5 Underrated but Great Places to Leaf-Peep in the U.S.

fall-leavesFall foliage fans are eagerly checking leaf-peeping maps right about now.  As leaves begin to burst into spectacular colors before succumbing to the cycle of life, millions of people will be descending upon roads, trails, and bike paths across New England and elsewhere in the Northeast to witness one of nature’s most beautiful evolutions.  Let them have their fun; Mother Nature doesn’t focus her autumn efforts on just one region of the country, and neither should you.  If you’d rather check out underrated but great places to leaf-peep in the United States, read on.

To find underrated but great places to leaf-peep throughout the United States, click here.  To get 5% cash back on reservations and rebates on travel services, check out Travel Plus.  Where’s your favorite fall foliage destination?  Leave us a reply to let us know.

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Travel Tips: How Much Should You Tip While Traveling?

tip_coffeeTipping is one of the trickier issues in the travel industry.  Most people believe in rewarding hospitality workers who provide quality services in hotels, restaurants, and certain types of transportation, but the circumstances and amount often vary wildly from traveler to traveler.  There are no hard-and-fast tipping laws, but the following guidelines on how much you should tip while traveling represent a consensus of opinions from several respected sources, including USA Today, Emily Post, AARP, and Consumer Reports:

Hotels

Position/Service Tip Amount
Car Valet $0-3 for parking your car; $2-5 when picking it up
Doorman A simple “thanks” for opening the door; $1-2 for hailing a cab (an extra $1 if it’s raining); $1-4 for carrying luggage; $1-4 for special services
Concierge Nothing for simple services; up to $25 for extra tasks (e.g., finding hard-to-get concert tickets)
Bellhop $2 for your first bag, $1 for additional bags
Maid $2-3 per guest per night, left each morning in an envelope marked “Housekeeping — Thank You”
Room Service (food) 10% for a regular order; 15-20% for a difficult order; $1-2 if your bill already includes a “service charge”
Room Service (room needs) $1-3 per item; $5-10 for particularly quick service
Room Service (laundry) $1-3 per item; $5-10 for quick turnarounds

hotel_staff

Restaurants

FYI:  “Automatic gratuity” charges are standard at many restaurants, but that may change in January 2014.  If you don’t see such a charge on your bill, please tip your waitstaff appropriately.

Position/Service Tip Amount
Bartender $1-2 per drink; $5 for a round of drinks; 10-20% if paying a tab at the end of the night
Coat/Hat Check $1 per item
Home/Hotel Delivery 10-15% of the bill; $2-5 for pizza delivery
Host or Maitre d’ Nothing for simple services; $10-20 for special treatment (e.g., finding you a table quickly on a busy night)
Take-out No charge for pick-up; 10% for extra service or special orders
Valet $2-5 when you pick up the car
Waitstaff 15-20% pre-tax for sitdown service; 10-20% pre-tax for buffet

tip_on_table

Transportation

Position Tip Amount
Baggage Handler/Skycap $1-2 per bag, depending on size
Cab/Limo Driver 10-20% of the fare
Flight Attendant Nothing, although there’s no law against it
Shuttle Driver $1-2 per person
Valet Parking $1-2
Wheelchair Attendant $5-10 for a ride to the gate; $10-20 if extra services are provided

limo_driver

While tipping isn’t always mandatory, tips often account for the majority of compensation for many hospitality-industry workers, who shouldn’t have to go above and beyond their duties to merit some appreciation.  If you’re not sure whether to tip, try imagining a family member in the service provider’s position.  If your loved one performed the exact same service for someone else, should he or she fairly expect to receive a tip?  If your answer is “yes,” consider tipping for that service yourself.

To help ensure that you can afford to tip hospitality workers appropriately, check out Travel Plus, which offers members 5% cash back on travel reservations and rebates on travel-service charges.  And let us know in “Comments” what your tipping policy is.

Top U.S. Vacation Events in October

October in the United States brings shorter days, brisk breezes, colorful leaves, an abundance of Halloween decorations, but few family vacation opportunities.  Aside from Columbus Day, schools are generally in session for the entire month, so families with school-aged children don’t have much time to travel (although it’s an ideal vacation time for folks who prefer not to travel with young ones).  That doesn’t mean you can’t find places to go and things to do, though. If you’re hoping to get away for a spell (with or without kids), here are a few of the top vacation events in the U.S. this October:

Richard Susanto / Shutterstock.com

Richard Susanto / Shutterstock.com

  • The International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM.  The 41st edition of the Fiesta lifts off this October 5-13.  Unless you’ve already registered your balloon, you won’t be able to enjoy a ride in the clouds, but the Fiesta is that rare balloon event that allows spectators to walk among the balloons on the ground and mingle with the pilots.  If watching balloons soar isn’t your thing, the fiesta offers a wide assortment of other activities to suit virtually every fancy.
  • appleharvestThe National Apple Harvest Festival, Arendtsville, PA.  The festival, held this year on October 5-6 and 12-13, is located midway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Celebrating a favorite fall fruit in its various forms, the festival keeps visitors entertained with over three dozen attractions, from apple art and antique cider presses to pie-baking, pie-eating, and much, much more.  And should you need a break from all things apple, Gettysburg is just 10 miles away.
  • The Major League Baseball Postseason, TBD.  October marks the start (and, weather permitting, the end) of the MLB playoff schedule.  As of this publishing date, no team had clinched a playoff berth yet, but likely candidates include Boston, Detroit, Oakland, and Texas in the American League, and Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in the National League.  If you want to attend a postseason game, keep an eye on which teams are clinching spots, and act quickly.

    BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com

    BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com

  • Halloween in Central Park, NY.  New York City plays host to quite a few Halloween celebrations, including haunted houses, scavenger hunts, the Bounce Music Festival, and the internationally renowned Village Halloween Parade, but few venues offer quite as many family-friendly Halloween events as Central Park.  From the Bats of Belvedere on October 4 to the Pumpkin Festival on October 26 to the Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Sail on October 27, Central Park offers children and grown-ups alike a whole lot of affordable (i.e., free) fun.

From watching unusual flying objects to witnessing unusual forms of apparel, there are vacation options aplenty in October.  You’ll also find plenty of ways to save on travel with Travel Plus, from 5% cash back on reservations to rebates on travel perks and more.  Where do you want to go this October?

Vacation Spots for Solo Travelers This Fall

Traveling solo has never been more popular, according to a March 2013 Travel Guard study.  For a variety of reasons — life changes, a wider embrace of independent living, an increasing desire to pursue personal interests — there’s been a marked uptick in the number of unaccompanied vacationers.  Of course, single people have a built-in edge over group travelers when choosing vacation destinations:  They only have to please one person — themselves.  If you’re planning to spend some time vacationing by yourself, consider the following vacation spots for solo travelers this fall:

These are just a few of the many vacation spots for solo travelers this fall.  And when you make reservations through Travel Plus (and pay for them in U.S. dollars), you’ll earn 5% cash back for your travels.  Leave us a reply with your recommendations for solo-travel destinations!