Need a vacay? Travel & Adventure Show in Rosemont has you covered
Travel experts who speak at the annual Travel & Adventure Show in Rosemont always get asked these two questions:
1. Is it safe to go to (name of place)?
2. How can I save money?
The answer to question one is usually yes, though travelers should carefully consider U.S. State Department warnings and alerts about some destinations. Experts we spoke with noted that, statistically, your odds of being killed in a terrorist attack anywhere in the world are extremely low, and you're more likely to get struck by lightning.
Question two, about saving money, has many answers.
The money-saving advice the experts shared will be part of their presentations at the Travel & Adventure Show Jan. 21-22. The show also will feature hundreds of travel exhibitors, both local and international, offering vacation ideas, giveaways and specials.
To give you a little preview, here are some ways to get the most bang for your travel buck in 2017:
Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year with many special events.
- Photo courtesy of Destination Canada
This is a very good year to go to Canada for several reasons. First, the U.S. dollar is very strong against the Canadian loonie.
"It's so cheap, it's like everything's 25 percent off," said John E. "Johnny Jet" DiScala, of the travel tips and deals website JohnnyJet.com.
Additionally, to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, admission to its national parks -- including spectacular places like Banff National Park -- will be free for all of 2017. The city of Montreal will celebrate its 375th anniversary, offering unique, free events, like a 3-D projection on the river that tells the story of the city's history. Montreal's Contemporary Art Museum will host a special exhibit to celebrate the work of the late Canadian singer-songwriter and artist Leonard Cohen, and the city's opera house debuts the new Roger Waters' Opera based on Pink Floyd's "The Wall," among other interesting events.
Canada is also close -- driving distance in some cases -- so no long overseas flights are necessary to experience the Asian flair of Vancouver or the European-like setting in Quebec and Montreal.
If an African safari has been on your bucket list, this is a great time to visit South Africa, experts say. Besides a strong U.S. dollar and unusually cheap airfares, there are many companies offering packages for around $4,000 per person, including airfare, which is an extremely good deal.
"That destination, we're finding, to be on fire right now. It's mainly because of the pricing," said Vicky Evans, director of sales at AAA Motor Club Group, adding that AAA's partner, Africa Travel, is offering a 10-day trip with four-star hotels in that price range during the show.
France is a bargain now, as tourism has dipped and the U.S. dollar is strong against the Euro, travel experts say.
- Daily Herald File Photo
Because of the recent terrorist attacks there, tourism in France has plummeted. But Pauline Frommer, of the travel guide Frommers.com, insists it's a safe country to visit -- and a great time to go. The dollar remains strong against the Euro, creating lots of bargain deals.
"Hotels are empty and are being discounted, and you can get reservations in the top restaurants," Frommer said. "I was in the Louvre (museum) in June, and in many rooms, I was all by myself."
Europe hasn't been this cheap in decades, experts say, in part because of the Brexit, which could push the Euro beneath the 1:1 ratio to the U.S. dollar this summer, making it a bargain.
"Prices will be higher in tourist areas. You'll find the better deals in the smaller towns. You get a pizza in Venice, it's $20. You get it in a small town in Italy, it's $2, or $1.50," DiScala said.
Evans added that European river cruises remain extremely popular -- both budget trips and all-inclusive luxury boats.
"It's a different way to see Europe. The excursions and food are all included. It's really a good value," she said.
Camping, at places like this South Bend/Elkhart North KOA campground in Indiana, is a popular budget vacation.
- Photo courtesy of KOA
Camping in the U.S.
KOA campgrounds report a jump in the number of people camping, in part due to efforts to encourage camping among different ethnic groups, Frommer said. KOA has all sorts of discounts and deals going, to keep the prices affordable. Groups like Latinos Outdoors have some value-priced camping trips.
Consider flying instead of driving
Airfare prices are dropping, thanks to low fuel costs, more airlines and more flights, says a report released last month by the Airlines Reporting Corp. and Expedia. While driving is still typically cheaper, sometimes the cost of gas, hotels and food add up, making it pricier than it seems. Generally, the lowest airline ticket prices are found for tickets booked more than 21 days in advance and for Saturday night stays. Be warned to look out for airline fees, especially in the new "EconomyBasic" rate, where a carry-on bag will cost you extra. "They're aiming for people who don't read the fine print," Frommer said.
Skip the hotel room, rent a house
The home-rental business is getting more professional and companies like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO are make sure the better homes show up in the search results. Not only are these home rentals often cheaper than hotel rooms, they're bigger and they're a fun way to travel and meet locals, Frommer said.
"Often, you have a place where you can cook, too, which saves you a lot of money on restaurant meals," she said.
Consider a travel agent
While booking travel is easier than it's ever been, there are still things a travel agent can help you with, especially if you run into trouble with your reservations, Evans said.
"There are so many different variables, and it takes you hours to do this research yourself," she said. "Using a professional, they can get all of the savings."
How the experts save money
Besides their own websites, we asked three travel experts to share a website or app they use to save money when traveling. Here's what they said:
Vicky Evans -- Director of Sales for AAA Motor Club Group
2017 trip: Venice and Milan, Italy
How she saves money: Rather than buy an international phone package, she uses the WhatsApp app. The free app offers free texting and phone calls anywhere in the world that has Wi-Fi.
Pauline Frommer, publisher of Frommer travel guides
2017 trip: New Zealand and Washington, D.C., to see the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
John E. DiScala
John E. "Johnny Jet" DiScala, founder of JohnnyJet.com
2017 trip: Canada and Hawaii
How he saves money: Using GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas stations while on the road, using Airbnb or VRBO to rent homes and save money on hotels, and using websites that search several places at once, including Google.com/flights.
Travel & Adventure ShowWhen: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
Tickets: $15 for one day pass, $22 for a two-day pass. Free for kids 16 and younger. Buy tickets in advance for discounted rates.