Categories
Travel

Here’s How to Take Over 20 of the Best Disney World Rides Virtually


If you’re a die-hard Disney fan looking for some good news, look no further. For the first time ever in Disney’s history, all Disney parks around the world have been closed indefinitely since March 16. Luckily, we can still have some fun on the best Disney World rides virtually.  

a sign on the side of a road

How can you take the virtual rides?

Have you ever wished you could take your favorite Disney World rides without having to wait in long lines? Thanks to the YouTube account Virtual Disney World, you can do it now. The channel has been offering virtual reality rides through 360-degree videos since 2016. All you need to do is click on the page and you can take as many rides as you want for free. If you want to make things even more fun, you’ll be happy to know that the rides are compatible with a virtual reality headset or a smartphone with a headset. You’ll have fun learning these 23 mindblowing facts about Disneyland.

The channel has over 62,000 subscribers to date and includes rides from Disney World’s Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Universal and more. Each video takes you through one ride from start to finish—no waiting in long lines or travel necessary! If you’re looking for more fun Disney-related activities you can do at home, try to see if you can spot all the hidden Mickeys in Disney World’s new ride.

What are some of the rides that you can take?

Thanks to Virtual Disney World, you can take rides from all of the four theme parks in Disney World, as well as Disneyland rides, and rides that no longer exist. For those who may wonder: Here’s the difference between Disneyland and Disney World.

These are the most popular attractions for viewers:

The Slinky Dog Dash from Disney’s Hollywood Studios features a two-minute roller coaster ride.

The Frozen Ever After from Disney’s Epcot theme park is a song-filled journey in a slow-moving boat ride through short waterfalls.

Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain from Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is a race through the Himalayas on a speeding train.

Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, which is at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, recreates scenes from the classic film.

Are there other virtual Disney offerings?

While the YouTube channel offering these rides is not officially affiliated with Disney, there are other virtual attractions that Disney is offering until the parks open again. If you’re looking to add some creativity into your day, you can watch a complete series of how-to tutorials on drawing Disney characters. Need some magic in your life? You can view Disney’s Magic Happens Parade online, and experience the magic without having to stake out the “perfect spot” to see the parade. You can also take a virtual, behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney’s Imagineering, which is a very rare treat. Or, you can join in this magical moment as the Dapper Dans, an iconic part of the Main Street, U.S.A. experience at Disneyland Resort, give a video-performance to bring some joy into people’s lives.

The post Here’s How to Take Over 20 of the Best Disney World Rides Virtually appeared first on Reader’s Digest.

WATCH: Disney safari cast member ‘works from home’ with stuffed animals (provided by USA TODAY)


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Categories
Travel

Hotels Spread Messages of Hope by Keeping the Lights on


Hotels around the world are shining images of hearts and hope.



a view of a city at night: Hotels Spread Messages of Hope by Keeping the Lights on


© Courtesy of Marriott International
Hotels Spread Messages of Hope by Keeping the Lights on



As domestic and international travel slows to a trickle amid the global coronavirus pandemic, hotels around the world have either shut their doors or seen their occupancy numbers nosedive. But many of them haven’t gone dark entirely.

As of March 25, 7 out of 10 hotel rooms were empty across the United States, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). The association reported that hotels are currently on pace to lose more than $500 million in room revenue per day (or $3.5 billion per week) based on current and estimated future occupancy rates. Nearly 4 million total jobs have either been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks, AHLA reported.

“COVID-19 has been especially devastating for the hotel industry,” stated Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO. But he added, “The hospitality industry stands ready and able to do whatever we can to make it through this unprecedented crisis, while building a foundation for a stronger tomorrow.”

Despite the devastation, hotels around the world have started turning on guest room lights at night that form messages of encouragement and hope. Whether the illuminations are in the shape of a heart or spell out the words “hope” or “love,” they’re an attempt to spread some positivity during an extremely challenging time.

a lit up city at night: This Crowne Plaze property in Belgrade, Serbia, kicked off a global trend for IHG properties around the world.

“It’s been incredible to see this grow into a movement of now hundreds of hotels around the world all displaying solidarity and support for their local communities,” said Emma Corcoran, vice president of global corporate affairs for Intercontinental Hotels Group.

The company’s Crowne Plaza property in Belgrade, Serbia, was among the first to turn room lights on to display an inspiring message, said Corcoran.

a tall building: Luxury property Regent Berlin has temporarily closed due to coronavirus.

“We’re incredibly proud of the way our hotels teams have responded to these challenging circumstances, supporting guests, our hotel owners, and each other, while also finding new ways to care for our communities. Switching on our lights of love is just one demonstration of that, and we’ve loved seeing more and more hotels across the industry get involved,” she added.

a close up of a tall building: Hearts abound on Marriott properties throughout the world.

Dozens of Marriott International properties have also shone similar messages of love and hope, a movement that started totally organically, said Allison Sitch, vice president of public relations for Marriott International, the Americas.

“Just as we are all eager to return to a time when family and friends can come together in our homes, the same is true of the reunion we look forward to with our guests,” said Jaime Moench, market director of sales and marketing of the Ritz-Carlton, Naples in Florida (part of the larger Marriott family), which turned on its lights in the shape of a heart.

a view of a city at night: A view of the Standard, High Line in New York from across the Hudson River.

The Standard International has had to temporarily close all its hotels due to the coronavirus pandemic—the Standard, High Line; the Standard, East Village; the Standard Spa, Miami Beach; and the Standard, London—but hearts will light up the facades of both the High Line and London properties until the hotels reopen.

The desire is “to inspire hope through a simple, yet powerful, visual communication,” the company said in a statement.

a circuit board in front of a building: The Venetian in Las Vegas has temporarily closed.

The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco had to close in March, but “we decided to light up our windows in the shape of a heart to show solidarity and continuous support for our employees and the local community, as a symbol of love and hope,” said Michael Pace, the hotel’s general manager.

a palm tree in front of a building: This Holiday Inn Resort in Aruba is keeping its lights on in the shape of a heart.

Pace noted that many other hotels have done the same in San Francisco, “further spreading the love around our beautiful city. I’ve loved watching the hotel industry come together during this time with the common goal of bringing unity to our cities.”

WATCH: Chicago hotels set aside for COVID-19 first responders (provided by ABC 7 Chicago)


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Holiday

PODCAST: The Value of Travel Agents on Full Display

The TravelPulse Podcast is back with the first-ever quarantined episode.

Hosts Eric Bowman and Dan Callahan are practicing their social distancing and are recording from home this week.

Last week the two did not record as Dan was on his honeymoon in paradise. Listen in to see why he and his new wife made the choice to continue on with their honeymoon vacation in the midst of a global pandemic.

The focal point of today’s episode is all about showing the value that travel agents and advisors bring to travelers, with perfect examples showcasing how they saved the day for the clients.

Be sure to subscribe to the TravelPulse Podcast at Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Spotify and Stitcher.

Have any feedback or questions? Be sure to contact us at [email protected]

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Categories
Transport

Hundreds of Thousands Still Flying as Air Travel Slows

Despite facing new challenges including flight cancellations due to government restrictions and pressure to stay home to slow the spread amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to board flights throughout the U.S.

However, the dropoff has been dramatic compared to previous years and passenger numbers continue to decline rapidly with each passing day.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported 239,234 travelers nationwide on Wednesday, March 25, 40,000 fewer than Tuesday, March 24. For perspective, TSA reported 2,273,811 total travelers on March 25 of last year.

As airlines scramble to reduce capacity, park planes, cut staff and adjust their schedules, TSA figures show that demand continues to trend downward. The number of airborne travelers has decreased every day since March 15, when 1,519,442 Americans boarded planes. The steady decline has been dramatic also, with totals dropping by hundreds of thousands and now tens of thousands each day.

From March 13—the day President Trump declared a national emergency over COVID-19—to March 23, the number of air travelers is down 63 percent compared to the same period in 2019. TSA reported more than 2 million travelers every day between March 4-25, 2019 but only three times during the same period this year, the last time coming on March 8.

With fewer and fewer passengers boarding flights, airlines have been making changes to their policies and services, eliminating middle seats and reducing food and beverage service to increase the distance between people and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Airlines did receive good news this week in the form of a $50 billion bailout as part of a $2 trillion stimulus package agreed to by the U.S. Senate to aid the domestic economy.

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Categories
Destinations

New Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Destination Organizations

MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, has released a new study that shows the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak on North American destination organizations.

Key findings show that organizations expect coronavirus will have an extreme impact on their business over the next six months. The majority of organizations have canceled events and postponed marketing and sales efforts.

These were the first results released from the ongoing study, which is a series of bi-weekly surveys of North American destination professionals that track how this sector has been affected by COVID-19 and what shifts organizations are making.

The first findings show that over the course of two weeks, the pandemic dramatically changed the sector’s outlook, operations and marketing spending.

During the first wave of the survey, which was conducted in early March, less than 20 percent of destination organizations reported reducing or postponing marketing spend and a similar amount reported restricting domestic travel for employees.

Now, in the second wave of the survey two weeks later, 80 percent of destination organizations surveyed have reduced or postponed sales and marketing spend. Sixty percent have asked employees to work from home.

The percentage of destinations reporting coronavirus-related postponements and/or cancellations of conferences, meetings or events surged from under 40 percent in Wave I to almost 100 percent in Wave II.

“Destination organizations not only serve as representatives for the broader travel industry but as stewards of their communities,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer for the Destinations International Foundation. “This study allows us to support these organizations by creating a tool that shares up-to-date detail on how their peers are managing through this ever-changing process.”

Destination organizations have shifted gears over the last two weeks and are now mostly fielding inquiries about coronavirus-related questions.

The number of respondents receiving 20 or more COVID-19-related inquiries a day rose from 4 percent in the first wave of the survey to 30 percent in the second wave. People are calling to primarily ask about event cancellations and attraction closings, as well as business-related functions such as conferences, conventions and business meetings.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation for our industry, and it’s important for destinations to make decisions based on facts and hard data as they begin to prepare recovery strategies,” said Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer for MMGY Global. “While there is no precedent for this situation, we know that travel has spiked following previous crises, and data will help influence how destinations keep travelers and communities informed until travel restrictions are eased and bookings return.”

The survey also asked destination organizations if they had planned for a situation such as a pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents stated that they had an emergency plan in place.

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Categories
Travel

Impact of Coronavirus on Travel Industry Job Losses Worsens




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Transport

Emirates Suspends Majority of Flights

Emirates Airlines, one of the leading international carriers, announced today it will cease almost all of its commercial flights beginning March 25 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group made the decision in a statement.

“The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint,” bin Saeed Al Maktoum said. “Until January 2020, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets. But COVID-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past 6 weeks.

“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns. By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow we will reinstate our services.”

Emirates has already taken steps to try to contain costs, including postponing or canceling discretionary expenditure, freezing non-essential recruitment and consultancy work, encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity, and a temporary reduction of basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25 percent to 50 percent. Employees will continue to be paid their other allowances during this time. Junior-level employees will be exempt from basic salary reduction.

“Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce and keep our talented and skilled people, as much as possible,” bin Saeed Al Maktoum. “We want to avoid cutting jobs. When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers.”

He added that “Emirates Group has a strong balance sheet and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality.”

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Categories
Travel

Change of plans? Use this negotiation strategy to get customer service on your side



a airplane that is sitting in front of a window

MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

If you’re a frequent TPG reader, your life has likely been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting impact on travel.

Numerous TPG readers have told us that they booked nonrefundable reservations because they didn’t plan to cancel their trip. Others purchased travel insurance, but most trip insurance doesn’t cover epidemics so they’re still out the money. In many such cases, your best bet is to reach out directly to the airline or hotel in question and ask for help.

TPG has covered how to reach customer service as quickly as possible — but what should you ask for once you get on the phone?

Be clear about what you need

Before you get on the phone, know where you want to go before you reach out to your airline to make any changes. A customer service representative can’t tell you whether or not it’s best for you to go home to your own apartment, or shelter in place at your parents’ house in another state, and it isn’t their job to wait on the line while you draft up a pros-and-cons checklist.

Have your desired airport code, travel times and dates, your passport number and record locator, and any other personal information ready on hand before you reach out. And be prepared for long hold times, or try reaching out via Twitter or text.

Be flexible on how you accomplish your goal

It’s great to have a specific plan in place, but keep your big picture goal in mind. Right now, your top priority should be safety and speed, not necessarily convenience or efficiency. If you’re trying to get home to Brooklyn or Queens, be willing to consider flying into Newark, Philly or even Boston. Similarly, flying into Oakland, San Jose or even Sacramento could be a good alternative to San Francisco if you need to get back to the Bay Area.

Alternatively, consider renting a car and driving where you need to go if the journey isn’t too long — or if you’re up for taking the scenic route home. The main goal of social distancing is increasing the amount of physical distance between you and other people, and a road trip fulfills most of the criteria. Keep in mind that most hotels and stores along the way may be closed or operating under limited hours, so stock up on gas and supplies well before setting out. 

Negotiation strategy: Big ask, little ask

If you know that you can’t or won’t need to travel any longer, you’ll probably want your money (or points) back instead of rescheduling your trip for a later date. But just because your friend got a full refund on an international flight through Delta Airlines doesn’t mean you’ll get the same result for canceling a domestic flight on Spirit.

Here’s where a sales negotiation strategy called “big ask, little ask” could help you accomplish your goal.

The concept here is to have at least two satisfactory outcomes in mind, and to ask for the bigger favor first. If that fails, then ask for the smaller favor. In contrast, the smaller request will seem easier to grant, and you’ll be more likely to get what you ask for.

Your success will vary based on a lot of factors, but it never hurts to try — and it really pays to be as polite as humanly possible.

Let’s say you purchased a $400 nonrefundable ticket, and your airline is offering you free changes for the travel dates. But the event you wanted to attend was canceled, so you no longer plan to take this trip. When you reach out to customer service, go for the “big ask” first: A full refund. Be polite, explain your circumstances, and nicely ask if the agent can help you out. If the answer is yes, then great; if no, then switch to your “little ask”, which could be a voucher toward future travel instead of rescheduling your flight.

Chances are, you’ll find some leniency from the representative. And even if you don’t, you can walk away knowing you did your best.

Priority goes to travelers who need immediate assistance

Trying to cancel a spring break trip in April? Don’t get on the phone; save customer service hotlines for people who need immediate help resolving their travel issues.

Instead, reach out to your airline or online travel agency (OTA) via email, Twitter or text. You can avoid long hold times, possibly increase your chances of getting a favorable response, and know that you’re doing your fellow traveler a favor by freeing up the phone lines.

Remember that you’re on the same team — and be kind

These are stressful times with little to no prior precedent, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Remember that you and the customer service agent share the same goal of getting you where you need to go, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

Also keep in mind that these agents have been dealing with frustrated customers for weeks, and are facing job uncertainty themselves. Be kind and thoughtful to the person helping you — a “thank you” or a “How are you doing?” goes a long, long way right now.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

SPONSORED: It’s vital to have the right travel credit card in your purse or wallet so that you’re not missing out on great travel rewards. While there are lots of terrific credit cards for travel out there, the reality is that the best one for you should suit your specific travel needs.

In this guide, The Points Guy reviews all the details, including bonus offers and perks such as Global Entry fee credits and Priority Pass lounge access, to bring you a list of the very best cards. Remember that travel rewards can add up quickly, especially when a welcome bonus is involved, so it’s important to apply and start earning as soon as you can to maximize your points and miles.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Categories
Transport

President and CEO of 'Airlines for America' Issues Statement

WHY IT RATES: Head of ‘Airlines for America’ encapsulates the unprecedented effects of the past two weeks on the U.S. airline industry, calling the coronavirus’ impact worse than the aftermath of 9/11, and promising to do everything possible to preserve jobs for those who work in air travel and related fields. — Laurie Baratti, TravelPulse Associate Writer

Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A), issued the following statement on March 18, 2020:

We commend President Trump’s unwavering commitment to protecting the health and well-being of the American people and appreciate his efforts to support the U.S. airline industry. The President, Vice President, Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Chao have expressed a deep understanding of the devastating economic harm that is directly impacting U.S. carriers as a result of government- and business-imposed travel restrictions as well as the fear generated from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

We very much appreciate the ongoing constructive conversations we are having with the White House and Congress. The economic impact on U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public is staggering. In the short span of two weeks, U.S. carriers – both passenger and cargo – have seen their positions of strong financial health deteriorate at an unprecedented and unsustainable pace. By all accounts, this situation is worse than the financial and operational impact caused by 9/11.

Before this current public health crisis, U.S. airlines were transporting a record 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo each day. Today, carriers are burning through cash as cancellations far outpace new bookings for U.S. carriers, planes are only 20-30% full and new bookings are implying 70-80 percent declines in traffic even as airlines make dramatic cuts in capacity – and this is getting worse each day with no end in sight.

Amid this crisis, the U.S. airline industry is doing everything possible to preserve the 750,000 jobs of hard-working men and women who are directly employed by U.S. airlines, including pilots, flight attendants, gate agents and mechanics, as well as the 10 million jobs supported by the industry. Our employees are the backbone of the industry and our greatest resource.

U.S. airlines are grateful to the President, Vice President, Sec. Mnuchin and Sec. Chao for their ongoing support as we work to protect our employees, keep commerce moving and continue flying people and products across the globe.

For more information, visit airlines.org.

SOURCE: Airlines for America press release.

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Categories
Travel

BA accused of 'deliberately blocking online cash refunds for flights'

British Airways accused of ‘deliberately blocking online cash refunds for flights’ by ‘hiding’ the application form

  • Frequent flyer website says British Airways is denying customers a legal right 
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Times are undoubtedly hard for British Airways, but the carrier has seemingly stepped over the line in a bid to hold on to its bookings amid the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s biggest frequent flyer website, Head for Points, has accused the airline of ‘deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios flight bookings’. That is, trips made using air miles.

Editor Rob Burgess wrote on his site that Avios bookings adhere to standard BA rules, which allow full cash refunds for taxes and charges and the return of the Avios points used if the flight is cancelled up to 24 hours before departure.

The UK’s biggest frequent flyer website, Head for Points, has accused BA of ‘deliberately blocking online cash refunds for Avios flight bookings’

However, he alleges that this week, when customers have tried to activate these refunds online, they’ve been automatically directed to an application page for a ‘future travel voucher’ and not the standard cancellation form.

The same problem has not been occurring for customers asking for refunds over the phone.

He adds in the piece that the issue has ‘dominated’ his inbox over the past two days.

Rob told MailOnline Travel that the issue is twofold – a denial of a legal right and something that impacts passengers with other problems.

He said: ‘Whether by accident or design, it is not acceptable that British Airways is denying passengers easy access to their legal right to a cash refund on cancelled Avios bookings.

‘It is also impacting other passengers who are trying to call BA with genuine travel concerns but who are being delayed because other passengers need to ring to obtain the cash refund they are legally due.’

The travel industry is facing a catastrophic loss of profits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and many who work in it are promoting the hashtag #dontcancelpostpone

Gilbert Ott, who runs the God Save The Points flight tips site, also levelled criticism at BA.

He wrote: ‘No one wants undue harm done to any airlines, but there are boundaries which should not be crossed in any aspect of life, and in my opinion, British airways has crossed one. They’re duping passengers out of refunds when they’re due, by pretending it’s not an option.’

Head For Points published a separate article detailing a workaround to the refund page issue discovered by an ‘IT-savvy reader’. Click here for more.

When MailOnline put the allegations to BA, it said: ‘Customers on cancelled flights can take a voucher for future travel up to a year or a refund.’

The travel industry is facing a catastrophic loss of profits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and many who work in it are promoting the hashtag #dontcancelpostpone.

 

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