More Cuba travel possibiilities. Also, days of the week when airfares are lowest.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the June 2015 issue.
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Torre de Iznaga, a 141-foot-tall tower built in the early 1800s, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — Valle de los Ingenios, Cuba. Photo: ©yelo34/123rf.com

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 472nd issue of your monthly foreign travel magazine.

Those of you who are seeing ITN for the first time, come on in and take a look around. We’ve got articles and letters written by our subscribers, frequent travelers like you, providing recommendations — and candid opinions — about tours, flights, destinations, etc.

Travel news that could affect your plans, positively or negatively, is prominently displayed.

On the top shelf are articles in particular categories by a selection of Contributing Editors.

A special this month — one aisle is devoted to travelers’ descriptions of colorful festivals they’ve enjoyed.

Continue to the back to find travelers’ information requests; The Mart, with boxes of tantalizing trip offers, and rooms with fun, travel-related challenges.

Scattered throughout the shop are opportunities to see the world and products to help you do so more efficiently. Some of these advertisements you won’t find in any other outlet.

Enjoy browsing through this place. We hope you find some things you were looking for and maybe a couple you didn’t know you wanted.

Come back anytime and see what we’ve unpacked. See page 9 for the way in.

Making headlines recently, on April 14 President Obama recommended that Cuba be removed from the US State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism, the latest in a string of policy changes aimed at easing US restrictions on that Caribbean nation. (That proposal is subject to a 45-day review by Congress before it is granted.)

Though there are still restrictions for most independent American travelers, the rules were eased on Jan. 16, and US companies have been quick to take advantage of the new opportunities US citizens have regarding traveling to and spending money in Cuba.

As I reported in the March issue, United Airlines is planning to fly to Cuba from Houston and Newark, though, as of press time, these flights and flights by other larger carriers are not yet available. However, on April 14 the online ticket broker Cheapair.com began selling tickets for direct flights from the US to Cuba, the first website to list them for sale to US travelers.

Cheapair.com lists a number of flights with small carriers that already were flying qualified travelers to Cuba, including direct flights from New York, Tampa Bay and Miami to Havana as well as from Miami to the Cuban cities of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.

Ticket in hand, you’ll need a place to stay. The vacation rental site Airbnb.com now lists apartments as well as rooms and even beds in private homes for rent in Havana. Roughly 1,000 rentals are being advertised on the site, mainly in Havana, some as low as $25 per night.

Unfortunately, for most Americans wishing to visit Cuba, independently booked direct flights and Airbnb rentals are still off-limits. Both are restricted to travelers entering Cuba under one of the 12 “general license” categories.  

General licenses cover family visits, journalism, religious activities, humanitarian activities and educational activities on behalf of an accredited US institution, among other categories. These licenses allow people to travel to Cuba as individuals. 

In order to travel to Cuba under a general license, a person must provide evidence of his reason for going there. In the case of journalism, the journalist must prove he is on assignment. A member or staff member of a religious organization traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities must carry a letter from a representative of the organization confirming his purpose for visiting. An educator heading to Cuba on a general license has to provide proof of association with an accredited institution. 

In each case, the traveler also must provide a signed affidavit stating he will not engage in activity outside of what the license allows.

General license categories do not include the category “educational exchanges,” under which most US citizens travel to Cuba on “People to People” educational group trips. 

Though travelers with an educational exchange license on a “People to People” group trip now are treated as though they have general licenses — in that they are no longer required to apply to the Office of Foreign Assets Control for permission to travel but, like a person traveling on a general license, need only provide evidence for the purpose of their trip — they still are considered to be traveling under a specific license and are not allowed to leave their trip group.

Because they are unable to travel as individuals, those on “People to People” trips most likely will not be taking advantage of the offerings of Cheapair.com or Airbnb.

Last month I wrote about the optimum number of days before a flight when prices of airline tickets sold in the US are likely to be at their lowest. Now that you have an idea of about how many months or weeks before a flight you may find the best airfares, I’ll explain how the day of the week on which you purchase a ticket may also make a difference in getting the lowest price.

Airline Reporting Corp. (ARC), a company involved in about 50% of all airline ticket purchases in the US, acts as the middleman between financial institutions and a number of airlines and travel agencies, monitoring and finalizing ticket transactions. In looking at the airfares in all of its transactions from January 2013 to July of 2014, ARC determined that, on average, the day of the week on which airfares were lowest was Sunday. This was true for both domestic flights and for international flights originating in the US. 

For domestic flights, when taking all of the listed fares into consideration, the average price of an economy-class ticket sold on a Sunday was $70 cheaper than the average price on Monday, the day on which tickets were the most expensive. 

For international flights, the average price of an economy-class ticket was nearly $600 less on a Sunday than on the most expensive day for international tickets, Friday.

This is a change from the traditional wisdom that the best day of the week to buy tickets is Tuesday. Tuesday’s prices were the third-cheapest during the week, and ARC did note that most price drops happened on Tuesdays, but those price drops did not bring the costs down to the levels of Sunday prices or even to those of the day on which average prices were regularly the second cheapest, Saturday.

Possible reasons for the weekend price reductions include the use of social networks to target weekend vacation shoppers and the tendency of airline executives to want to raise prices, rather than further discount them, when returning to work on Monday. Airlines also tend to charge more on weekdays to catch business travelers, who often purchase tickets while at work.

Despite their being the best days on which to buy airline tickets, Saturday and Sunday were also the days on which the fewest were sold. During the period of the study, about 12 million domestic tickets were sold on Saturdays and Sundays combined, four million fewer than were sold on Mondays alone.

International sales followed this pattern as well, with only about five million tickets sold on all of the Saturdays and Sundays during the period examined, a million fewer than were sold on all of the Fridays.

Way back in our June 2014 issue, In the letter “Miami Airport Woes” on page 22, Emily Moore described flying into Florida from Panama and joining the “hundreds of people in line” waiting to go through Customs.

ITN followed her letter with a response from the director of Miami International’s Aviation Department.  Emilio T. Gonzalez wrote that “Customs & Border Protection (CBP) staffing levels have been unable to keep pace with rapid passenger growth at our airport” and said he was petitioning the Department of Homeland Security and CBP for solutions. It looks like he got his wish.

On April 9, Miami International announced that they had added 44 automated passport control kiosks, for a total of 80, to help process incoming travelers through Customs and Immigration.

As passengers check in at the kiosks, their facial and fingerprint biometrics are verified against their passports.

I have a CORRECTION and an update — 

In Rick Steves’ March 2015 item about the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume in France (http://eyzies.monuments-nationaux.fr/en), on page 49, the email address fontdegaume@monuments-nationaux.fr was printed with a space in the middle. Just close it up. That error was caught by Linda Huetinck of Alhambra, California.

Ms. Huetinck is interested in visiting that cave with its prehistoric paintings, and on April 10 she called the number listed on the website for the cave (+33 553 06 8600) and spoke to an operator, who told her (in English) that reserved tickets for the Font-de-Gaume were sold out until October. She was advised to, instead, consider standing in line before the ticket booth opened at 9:30 a.m., as tickets are limited.

• Last month we dutifully printed the Travel Brief “Egypt Visa Change” (May ’15, pg. 4), reporting new rules for individuals traveling to Egypt. Just after the issue went to press, Egyptian officials announced they would delay those rules until an electronic visa-application process is implemented. No starting date has been given.

Paula Prindle of Orient, Ohio, wrote, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the Feature Article on the family trip to the Netherlands (April ’15, pg. 18). I still can’t believe a teenager wrote it. Claudia Dantoin’s vocabulary and sentence structure are far more mature than those of teenagers I know… and I taught for 30 years. Kudos to the school system at Mequon, Wisconsin!

“I would be interested to know Claudia’s age. She mentions the age of her brothers but neglects to state her own.”

We sent Claudia a copy of Paula’s letter, to which she replied, “Thank you so much for the kind words. I was 18 at the time of the trip, though I wrote the article at age 19. 

“As an aside, I was educated at a private school, the University School of Milwaukee, though it did, indeed, have a wonderful English department. In fact, I gifted a subscription of ITN to my favorite English teacher there, an avid traveler, herself.”

ITN, with a new issue delivered every month packed with possibilities, does make a great gift for someone who enjoys foreign travel. 

In fact, it’s not just a gift; it’s a whole gift shop!

ITN delivers the goods.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Torre de Iznaga, a 141-foot-tall tower built in the early 1800s, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — Valle de los Ingenios, Cuba. Photo: ©yelo34/123rf.com

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 472nd issue of your monthly foreign travel magazine.

Those of you who are seeing ITN for the first time, come on in and take a look around. We’ve got articles and letters written by our subscribers, frequent travelers like you, providing recommendations — and candid opinions — about tours, flights, destinations, etc.

Travel news that could affect your plans, positively or negatively, is prominently displayed.

On the top shelf are articles in particular categories by a selection of Contributing Editors.

A special this month — one aisle is devoted to travelers’ descriptions of colorful festivals they’ve enjoyed.

Continue to the back to find travelers’ information requests; The Mart, with boxes of tantalizing trip offers, and rooms with fun, travel-related challenges.

Scattered throughout the shop are opportunities to see the world and products to help you do so more efficiently. Some of these advertisements you won’t find in any other outlet.

Enjoy browsing through this place. We hope you find some things you were looking for and maybe a couple you didn’t know you wanted.

Come back anytime and see what we’ve unpacked. See page 9 for the way in.

Making headlines recently, on April 14 President Obama recommended that Cuba be removed from the US State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism, the latest in a string of policy changes aimed at easing US restrictions on that Caribbean nation. (That proposal is subject to a 45-day review by Congress before it is granted.)

Though there are still restrictions for most independent American travelers, the rules were eased on Jan. 16, and US companies have been quick to take advantage of the new opportunities US citizens have regarding traveling to and spending money in Cuba.

As I reported in the March issue, United Airlines is planning to fly to Cuba from Houston and Newark, though, as of press time, these flights and flights by other larger carriers are not yet available. However, on April 14 the online ticket broker Cheapair.com began selling tickets for direct flights from the US to Cuba, the first website to list them for sale to US travelers.

Cheapair.com lists a number of flights with small carriers that already were flying qualified travelers to Cuba, including direct flights from New York, Tampa Bay and Miami to Havana as well as from Miami to the Cuban cities of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.

Ticket in hand, you’ll need a place to stay. The vacation rental site Airbnb.com now lists apartments as well as rooms and even beds in private homes for rent in Havana. Roughly 1,000 rentals are being advertised on the site, mainly in Havana, some as low as $25 per night.

Unfortunately, for most Americans wishing to visit Cuba, independently booked direct flights and Airbnb rentals are still off-limits. Both are restricted to travelers entering Cuba under one of the 12 “general license” categories.  

General licenses cover family visits, journalism, religious activities, humanitarian activities and educational activities on behalf of an accredited US institution, among other categories. These licenses allow people to travel to Cuba as individuals. 

In order to travel to Cuba under a general license, a person must provide evidence of his reason for going there. In the case of journalism, the journalist must prove he is on assignment. A member or staff member of a religious organization traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities must carry a letter from a representative of the organization confirming his purpose for visiting. An educator heading to Cuba on a general license has to provide proof of association with an accredited institution. 

In each case, the traveler also must provide a signed affidavit stating he will not engage in activity outside of what the license allows.

General license categories do not include the category “educational exchanges,” under which most US citizens travel to Cuba on “People to People” educational group trips. 

Though travelers with an educational exchange license on a “People to People” group trip now are treated as though they have general licenses — in that they are no longer required to apply to the Office of Foreign Assets Control for permission to travel but, like a person traveling on a general license, need only provide evidence for the purpose of their trip — they still are considered to be traveling under a specific license and are not allowed to leave their trip group.

Because they are unable to travel as individuals, those on “People to People” trips most likely will not be taking advantage of the offerings of Cheapair.com or Airbnb.

Last month I wrote about the optimum number of days before a flight when prices of airline tickets sold in the US are likely to be at their lowest. Now that you have an idea of about how many months or weeks before a flight you may find the best airfares, I’ll explain how the day of the week on which you purchase a ticket may also make a difference in getting the lowest price.

Airline Reporting Corp. (ARC), a company involved in about 50% of all airline ticket purchases in the US, acts as the middleman between financial institutions and a number of airlines and travel agencies, monitoring and finalizing ticket transactions. In looking at the airfares in all of its transactions from January 2013 to July of 2014, ARC determined that, on average, the day of the week on which airfares were lowest was Sunday. This was true for both domestic flights and for international flights originating in the US. 

For domestic flights, when taking all of the listed fares into consideration, the average price of an economy-class ticket sold on a Sunday was $70 cheaper than the average price on Monday, the day on which tickets were the most expensive. 

For international flights, the average price of an economy-class ticket was nearly $600 less on a Sunday than on the most expensive day for international tickets, Friday.

This is a change from the traditional wisdom that the best day of the week to buy tickets is Tuesday. Tuesday’s prices were the third-cheapest during the week, and ARC did note that most price drops happened on Tuesdays, but those price drops did not bring the costs down to the levels of Sunday prices or even to those of the day on which average prices were regularly the second cheapest, Saturday.

Possible reasons for the weekend price reductions include the use of social networks to target weekend vacation shoppers and the tendency of airline executives to want to raise prices, rather than further discount them, when returning to work on Monday. Airlines also tend to charge more on weekdays to catch business travelers, who often purchase tickets while at work.

Despite their being the best days on which to buy airline tickets, Saturday and Sunday were also the days on which the fewest were sold. During the period of the study, about 12 million domestic tickets were sold on Saturdays and Sundays combined, four million fewer than were sold on Mondays alone.

International sales followed this pattern as well, with only about five million tickets sold on all of the Saturdays and Sundays during the period examined, a million fewer than were sold on all of the Fridays.

Way back in our June 2014 issue, In the letter “Miami Airport Woes” on page 22, Emily Moore described flying into Florida from Panama and joining the “hundreds of people in line” waiting to go through Customs.

ITN followed her letter with a response from the director of Miami International’s Aviation Department.  Emilio T. Gonzalez wrote that “Customs & Border Protection (CBP) staffing levels have been unable to keep pace with rapid passenger growth at our airport” and said he was petitioning the Department of Homeland Security and CBP for solutions. It looks like he got his wish.

On April 9, Miami International announced that they had added 44 automated passport control kiosks, for a total of 80, to help process incoming travelers through Customs and Immigration.

As passengers check in at the kiosks, their facial and fingerprint biometrics are verified against their passports.

I have a CORRECTION and an update — 

In Rick Steves’ March 2015 item about the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume in France (http://eyzies.monuments-nationaux.fr/en), on page 49, the email address fontdegaume@monuments-nationaux.fr was printed with a space in the middle. Just close it up. That error was caught by Linda Huetinck of Alhambra, California.

Ms. Huetinck is interested in visiting that cave with its prehistoric paintings, and on April 10 she called the number listed on the website for the cave (+33 553 06 8600) and spoke to an operator, who told her (in English) that reserved tickets for the Font-de-Gaume were sold out until October. She was advised to, instead, consider standing in line before the ticket booth opened at 9:30 a.m., as tickets are limited.

• Last month we dutifully printed the Travel Brief “Egypt Visa Change” (May ’15, pg. 4), reporting new rules for individuals traveling to Egypt. Just after the issue went to press, Egyptian officials announced they would delay those rules until an electronic visa-application process is implemented. No starting date has been given.

Paula Prindle of Orient, Ohio, wrote, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the Feature Article on the family trip to the Netherlands (April ’15, pg. 18). I still can’t believe a teenager wrote it. Claudia Dantoin’s vocabulary and sentence structure are far more mature than those of teenagers I know… and I taught for 30 years. Kudos to the school system at Mequon, Wisconsin!

“I would be interested to know Claudia’s age. She mentions the age of her brothers but neglects to state her own.”

We sent Claudia a copy of Paula’s letter, to which she replied, “Thank you so much for the kind words. I was 18 at the time of the trip, though I wrote the article at age 19. 

“As an aside, I was educated at a private school, the University School of Milwaukee, though it did, indeed, have a wonderful English department. In fact, I gifted a subscription of ITN to my favorite English teacher there, an avid traveler, herself.”

ITN, with a new issue delivered every month packed with possibilities, does make a great gift for someone who enjoys foreign travel. 

In fact, it’s not just a gift; it’s a whole gift shop!

ITN delivers the goods.