8 ways to travel the world without leaving your sofa

Stuck inside for the foreseeable future? Us too.
While we at TPG are avid travelers and supporters of the travel industry, now is simply not the time to be traveling, due to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Health officials agree the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others, and sadly, that means ceasing any nonessential travel.
Instead of traveling right now (sorry, that probably means no spring break this year), we suggest you use this time to plan your next vacation. Or, at the very least, satisfy your wanderlust by taking an unforgettable armchair vacation.
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We rounded up some of our favorite ways to travel the world without leaving the comfort of your home. So, break out your comfiest sweats and buckle up for your next adventure.
Discover a museum
The Guggenheim Museum in New York City. (Photo by Luis Davilla/Getty Images)
Iconic museums from the Guggenheim in New York City to the Louvre in Paris are available through Google Arts & Culture, a platform that allows you to take digital tours of some of the world’s most famous museums. You can browse through all the available museums, and even see some of the most famous pieces of art up close. Historic sites, such as the Palace of Versailles, are also available to tour through Google. The best part? Access is 100% free.
Read more: No travel required: 10 iconic museums you can tour online
Take a cooking class
(Photo by Jorge Zapata/Unsplash)
Is there anything better than having a home-cooked meal from an Italian grandma? We don’t think so. While Italy is on lockdown right now in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your fix of some incredible Italian cooking.
Nonna Nerina, an 84-year-old Italian grandmother in Palombara Sabina, Italy, has set up a virtual cooking class on Airbnb Experiences. Here, she’ll virtually teach you how to make Italian classics such as ravioli, gnocchi and fettuccine. Just note that she only teaches classes on weekends; the weekday classes are taught by her granddaughter. Plus, if you enter your email, you can get 25% off the $50, 2-hour class for a limited time.
Go on a ride at Disney
(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
The magic isn’t over just because all Disney parks around the world are closed until further notice. You can stream virtual Disney rides from parks around the world, from Florida to France, in the comfort of your own home. How’s that for a bargain on a Disney vacation?
Related: How to take your kids on virtual Disney rides around the world
Explore Parks and attractions
Alcatraz Island. (Photo by Aldric Rivat/Unsplash)
Take a trip to the great outdoors from, well, indoors. You can virtually explore national parks and famous attractions around the country, all courtesy of Google Arts & Culture. Think: the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Alcatraz Island. Better yet, they’re all accessible for free and you won’t have to wait in a single line.
Visit a botanic garden
The Bronx Botanical Garden. (Photo by Hiroyuki Matsumoto./Getty Images)
A handful of botanic gardens around the country are also offering virtual tours for travelers to enjoy. The indoor conservatory at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., for example, is temporarily closed to the public until at least April 1. In the meantime, though, you can take a virtual tour of the gardens and soak in all of the beautiful scenery.
Take an art class
(Photo by Dean Mitchell/Getty Images)
A handful of universities are hosting free, virtual art classes, according to Artsy, and many have a global perspective. You can study the history of Japan through images or discover ancient Egyptian art and antiquities. You know what they say: If you can’t travel, you might as well spend a few hours every week looking at pictures of places you wish you were. Right?
Listen to live music
(Photo by Mark S/Unsplash)
Did coronavirus derail your plans to travel to a major musical event like South by Southwest (SXSW), the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or Coachella?
Fortunately, a number of bands and musicians are performing “couch tours,” as many of their concerts have been canceled due to new restrictions regarding social distancing. For example, Dead and Company will host a weekly, free concert on Facebook. The concert will feature past performances that fans can watch for free, Live for Live Music reported.
And according to NPR, travelers can also catch live, virtual jazz performances, electronic festivals, classical concerts and more.
Watch a movie
(Photo by Jens Kreuter/Unsplash)
Give yourself a much-needed break from all the craziness out there and curl up on the sofa with one of these feel-good and wanderlust-worthy films this weekend. Some of our top picks include “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Mamma Mia” — but there are plenty of classic flicks and television series to choose from.
Related: Stuck at home? Stream these 7 movies to cope with travel wanderlust
Featured photo by Martin Pechy/Unsplash.

Everything you need to know about Qatar Airways’ baggage allowance

Before taking a flight, there are many things worth double- and triple-checking before you head to the airport or pack your case. Baggage allowance varies significantly between airlines and then again depending on the cabin class in which you’re traveling.
Qatar Airways is a popular option for flyers given the carrier’s extensive route network to destinations across Africa, Asia and beyond. However, the baggage allowance is different for each. So, the next time you’re flying with Qatar, look no further so you know what your packing limits are.
Checked luggage
Passengers flying Qatar Airways to and from Brazil on the airline’s fifth freedom flight from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as Canada and the U.S., are permitted to check in two bags, each with varying weight restrictions depending on the cabin class. As usual, it’s the passengers in economy who get slightly less weight allowance.
Related reading: How strict is Ryanair with its baggage allowance?
The legendary Qsuite. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
For passengers on flights between Doha and Casablanca and Marrakech, flights originating in Africa and all other destinations, passenger limits are based on weight and not the number of bags, meaning that you can bring as many bags as you like so long as the total weight does not exceed the limit.
The most generous of all the allowances are for passengers flying to Casablanca (CMN), Marrekech (RAK) and the rest of Africa, especially for economy passengers who are allowed to take up to 99 lbs. of luggage.

Weight & dimensions
Business class
Weight & dimensions
First class
Weight & dimensions

Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the U.S.
23 kgs
(51 lbs.)
2 bags max
158 centimeters
(62 inches) 
32 kgs
(71 lbs. )
2 bags max
158 centimeters
(62 inches)
32 kgs
(71 lbs.)
2 bags max
158 centimeters
(62 inches)

Casablanca and Marrekech
45 kgs
(99 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)
60 kgs
(133 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches) 
60 kgs
(113 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)

Flights originating in Africa
45 kgs
(99 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)
65 kgs
(143 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)
65 kgs
(142 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)

All other destinations
30 kgs
(66 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)
40 kgs
(88 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)
50 kgs
(110 lbs.)
300 centimeters
(118 inches)

Note: The maximum dimension refers to the bag’s length plus width plus height.
Related reading: I didn’t want to leave the plane: Review of Qatar economy on the A380 from Doha to London
Economy seats on Qatar’s A380. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)
Carry-on luggage
As usual, there are also weight and size restrictions for the bags you take on board with you. The size of your bags, whichever class you’re traveling in, should be within the maximum dimensions of 20 inches x 15 inches x 10 inches. The airline reminds passengers that if your laptop is in a separate laptop case, it must fit within your carry-on.
Additionally, each passenger is entitled to take one extra personal item on board with them. This can include but is not limited to, handbags, briefcases, coats, umbrellas, a pair of crutches, a walking stick, camera or binoculars, an infant’s carrying basket and of course, duty free that was purchased before boarding the flight.
First and business class
Passengers in the airline’s two premium cabins are entitled to take on board two pieces of hand luggage with a total maximum weight of 33 lbs.
Weight allowance is less in economy, as expected. Passengers are allowed one bag with a 15-lb limit — unless you’re on a flight to or from Brazil when the weight increases to 22 lbs.
Related reading: Qatar Airways to bring famed Qsuite to Manchester
Bottom line
It always pays to double-check your baggage allowance before you fly, as arriving at check-in with overweight or surplus baggage can ultimately mean hefty fines or even having to leave things behind.
Featured photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images

Should you go on spring break? Absolutely not.

Hello from my parents’ house where I am writing this article in an effort to “flatten the curve” and social distance myself from others. The deadly coronavirus is still spreading fast, and we all need to do our part to free up valuable medical resources for those who need them the most.
This adjustment, of course, hasn’t been easy for so many of us. Life as we knew it just a few days ago seems like a relic from an ancient past, and we’re all adjusting to relative solitude as our new normal.
Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates
It seems like the entire world is in a constant state of anxiety: People are losing their livelihoods, airlines are on the verge of bankruptcy and entire countries are on lockdown.
And yet, it’s come to our attention that many of you — against the advice of health experts, government officials and, hopefully, even your friends and family — are considering going on spring break.

“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not gonna let it stop me from partying”: Spring breakers are still flocking to Miami, despite coronavirus warnings. https://t.co/KoYKI8zNDH pic.twitter.com/rfPfea1LrC
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 18, 2020

We cannot stress this enough: You should not go on spring break. Should not!
Let us explain.
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You should only travel if it’s urgent and essential
We support the travel industry, but now is not the time for nonessential trips.
Instead of traveling right now, we suggest you use this time to plan your next vacation. You don’t have to book yet, but figure out where you want to go and map out the right strategy for building up the points and miles you need to take those trips.
TPG can guide travelers through this process. We’ll share the news when it’s time to start booking, but at least for the short term, let’s all do as much as we can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes hitting pause on travel.

I tell my daughters: Make decisions based on risk versus reward.
For young people to go out in crowds on spring break — is so unintelligent and reckless, I can't even begin to express it.
Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives. pic.twitter.com/hHGZKcvZBz
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 19, 2020

In fact, on March 19, the U.S. State Department issued a level 4 warning against all international travel. Officials are encouraging U.S. citizens not to go abroad and to return home if they’re currently traveling.
Only you can make the very personal decision about whether or not to keep, postpone or cancel upcoming trips, but spring break is almost certainly off the table. Instead, we encourage you to get a list going of all the places you want to see when we emerge from the immediate crisis.
Young adults are still at risk of COVID-19
When reports of the novel coronavirus started to surface, it was widely believed that healthy, young adults weren’t at risk of serious infection — though they could, even unknowingly, spread it to immunocompromised and elderly people. These people are at serious risk of death if infected with COVID-19.
Now, though, reports are surfacing that 40% of people hospitalized due to the virus are younger than 54 years old.
While you might think you’re young, healthy and invincible, this virus will effect us all, in one way or another. You might think you’re not at risk, but that’s even more reason to take every precaution necessary. Protect yourself and those around you by staying home.
You shouldn’t have a beach party
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis isn’t closing popular Florida spring break beaches, NBC News reported, but recently signed an order limiting parties on beaches to 10 people or fewer. Local governments, however, have stepped in. The mayors of Miami and Fort Lauderdale have issued orders to close their beaches due to the severity of the situation.
So even if you want to kick back, relax and grab a spot in the sun … well, you might be out of luck.
Sure, some beaches are still open, but this isn’t the time for going out and partying with your friends.
Related: Is now a good time to plan a trip to the beach?

Restaurants have also been mandated to reduce their capacity by 50%. This follows moves by other states, such as New York and California, that have recently shut down dining in restaurants altogether. Plus, wouldn’t you want to experience these destinations and all they have to offer when they’re at their best? Now isn’t the right time for that.

Instead, stay at home with loved ones. It will make a difference. The faster we can all get through this, the faster things can get back to normal — and that daiquiri on the beach will be even more worth it.
Featured image courtesy of Jim McKinley/Getty Images.

Not traveling? You might want to put these subscriptions on hold

Along with almost the entire world, we aren’t flying during the coronavirus pandemic. In many ways, it feels like our lives are on hold — so it might be time to consider putting certain travel subscriptions on hold, too.
Related: Should I travel? Advice for the coronavirus outbreak
Some, like Clear’s expedited airport security, are billed once a year. But other tools and services come with a monthly fee, making it easy to avoid paying for them until it’s time to start traveling again. Here are the five subscriptions you might want to freeze until this crisis has passed.
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Inflight internet

If you aren’t flying right now, this one’s a no-brainer. Road warriors can ordinarily save a tremendous amount of money by purchasing an inflight internet subscription, either directly through the airline or with a service like Gogo, which offers a variety of plans depending on how many devices you want to connect and where you typically fly. Be sure to confirm that your plan isn’t set to auto-renew, or you could get stuck paying for a service you simply can’t use.
Related: Credit cards that offer free and discounted inflight Wi-Fi
Commuter benefits
They can vary drastically from one employer to the next, but generally, these plans let you use pretax funds to pay for subway fares, shared rides and even parking. If you’re currently set up to receive a fixed amount each month, you could choose to continue paying into the program now, and scale it back to balance things out later in the year, but you will want to put unlimited transit cards on hold, especially if they’re only valid for a specific month.
Ride-hailing subscriptions
Photo by d3sign/Getty Images.
As many people are doing their best to stay isolated, there isn’t as much need for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft right now — after all, for many of us, the usual cross-town commute has been replaced by a walk between the sofa and the bed. Uber Ride Pass, a $25 monthly program, and the $20 per month Lyft Pink are two that come to mind, but there may be a local program you’re subscribed to as well. Also, keep in mind that Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can activate a year of Lyft Pink for free — so you might want to wait until travel resumes to get that done.
Related: Frequent Uber or Lyft passenger? These credit cards are for you
ExpertFlyer has long been a favorite expert-level travel search tool among the TPG team, even before it was acquired by our parent company, Red Ventures. In fact, I was an ExpertFlyer member prior to joining TPG, and I’ve even used the resource as recently as this week to search for award availability (for travels much later in the year, of course). My favorite feature — setting alerts so I see when the best seats open up — hasn’t been necessary while I’ve been grounded, but it’ll definitely be a go-to as soon as I get back in the air. Still, if you aren’t taking full advantage of ExpertFlyer right now, it could be worth pausing your service, or downgrading to the $4.99 per month Basic plan. You can always upgrade when we’re all able to travel again.
Cellphone plans

Plenty of casual travelers now take advantage of the $10 per day plans provided by a number of top carriers. But those of us who travel abroad often may also have a secondary subscription — which, ordinarily, results in significant savings. For several members of the TPG team, that’s Google Fi, which lets us connect all around the globe for a fraction of the price. Fortunately, it’s easy to put this service on pause — either online or via the app — and suspend billing for a period of up to three months.
Bottom line
As with frequent flyers all around the world, we’re hopeful the coronavirus pandemic is soon brought under control. In the meantime, it’s essential to avoid unnecessary travel — after all, when dinner at your favorite local restaurant isn’t even a possibility, it’s hard to imagine chowing down on the other side of the world. Still, we’ll eventually return to the skies and, when we do, we’ll restart our favorite subscriptions, too.
Featured photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images.

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

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.
Related: Will “cancel for any reason” insurance protect your trip?
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.
Related: A number of airlines have suspended all routes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic
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.
Related: Your complete guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
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.
Related: I booked my canceled trip using an airline voucher. Will the airline issue me a new one? 
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.
Related: Use Chase’s online tool to rebook or cancel your Ultimate Rewards itinerary
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.

15 travel essentials to buy during Nordstrom’s 25% off sitewide sale

Things are weird right now — there’s no way around that. Airlines are slashing flights, restaurants are closing and entire countries are on lockdown trying to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
We’re all doing our part to “flatten the curve” by staying home so that life can return to normal as soon as possible. Sadly, this includes hitting pause on travel.
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So, while we’re all not leaving our house for the next, well, who knows, it might be a great time to do some retail therapy and start building up your points and miles balances so they’re in great shape when it’s time to travel again. Trust us, that time will come.
If you’re in the market for a few new items, Nordstrom is having a major sale with up to 25% off sitewide on a majority of its inventory (with a few exclusions). We know a lot of these items are not priorities for everyone right now, but for those of you who are still in a position to stock up for the future, this is your chance.
We’d also tell you to use a shopping portal to get even more points and miles on your purchases, but unfortunately, you won’t find Nordstrom on any of them. All is not lost though: Use a credit card that earns bonus points on shopping purchases, and you’ll be racking up the points and miles for your future travels in no time.
Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates
Aesop Travel Kit
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $26.25, originally $35.
You can never go wrong with new Aesop products. Whether you’re storing them away for your next trip, or trying to make your home feel more like a Park Hyatt, add this to your cart sooner rather than later.
Adidas Tiro Soccer Training Pants
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $33.75, originally $45.
These pants just scream “airport mode,” don’t you think? Grab yourself a pair while they’re on sale. If we had to bet, we’d say you’re going to get pretty solid use out of them once travel picks up again.
Drybar Baby Buttercup Travel Blow Dryer
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $101.25, originally $135.
Never be disappointed by a hotel hairdryer again. Ever. This one is easily foldable and packable, so you can ensure your hair always looks runway ready … even if you’re just walking to your kitchen.
Calpak 22-inch Rolling Spinner Carry-On
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $123.75, originally $165.
If you’re in the market for a new carry-on, might we interest you in this sleek looking model from Calpak? It comes in a handful of shiny metallic colors, and is beloved by frequent flyers around the world. It has a TSA-approved lock to give you peace of mind, too.
Antica Farmacista Iron Wood Diffuser
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $21, originally $28 (3.3 oz).
While you’re stuck at home, you can make your home feel (and smell) like a high-end hotel. Antica Famacista makes fragrances for some of the top hotels and airlines in the world, including Alaska Airlines, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hotel Bel-Air and Four Seasons Anguilla.
Beis The Passport & Luggage Tag Travel Set
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $25.50, originally $34.
When the time is right, we know you’re going to want to hit the road — and your passport case could use an upgrade in the interim. Prepare now for all of the mileage it’s going to get when this is all over.
Le Labo Santal 33 Travel Tube
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $123.75, originally $165.
It’s no wonder this is one of the most popular fragrances on the market. Better yet, this set comes in a package of three, so you’ll never go without a spritz. One of these bottles will fit perfectly inside your toiletry bag and make the TSA very happy.
V3 International 22-inch Expandable Wheeled Carry-On
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $476, originally $595.
If you want to splurge, you can still save over $100 off this sturdy yet stylish Tumi bag. Its polycarbonate shell makes it lightweight and durable. Business and leisure travelers alike love Tumi, and for good reason.
MZ Wallace Metro Backpack
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $183.75, originally $245.
There’s plenty of storage to fit all your essentials in this MZ Wallace backpack, especially if you’re going on a quick trip. Even if you don’t have any travels on the horizon, this will take you from work to happy hour just fine.
Nike Blazer Low Leather Sneakers
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $56.25, originally $75.
Imagine how great your sightseeing is going to be in these comfortable, yet stylish, sneakers from Nike. If you close your eyes hard enough, you can picture yourself strolling around the plazas of Italy in them.
Trisilk Travel Pillow
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $56.25, originally $75.
Say goodbye to your airport “bean-bag” travel pillow and hello to this one made from silk. Those 13-hour flights will be no match for you.
Tory Burch Zip Leather Card Case
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $73.50, originally $98.
Your credit cards deserve to have a nice little home, especially while you’re traveling. This will keep all your cards and cash organized and easily accessible while on the go.
Patagonia Nano Puff Water Resistant Jacket
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $149.25, originally $199.
You could use a new jacket to brave the elements, and this one from Patagonia is available at solid price. It comes in black, silver and blue, making it a versatile addition to your travel uniform.
Native Shoes Jefferson Water Friendly Slip-on Vegan Sneaker
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $26 – $30, originally $35 – $40.
These are one of the best kid-friendly travel shoes on the market, and for good reason. Not only are they colorful and comfortable, but they’re sure to keep little feet happy. (Note that while many kids love them, they aren’t perfect for all feet shapes.) You can wear them with or without socks, they work in and out of water, and they’re easy to clean and dry quickly.
Nordstrom Rib Ruffle Cashmere Scarf
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $48.73, originally $169
You can’t say no to this cashmere scarf — especially now that it’s 70% off. Wear it as a cozy wrap on your next long-haul flight, in the office or even around the house. We have a feeling it’s going to be one of your new travel staples.
Stoney Clover Lane Small Nylon Makeup Bag
(Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)
To buy: $67.50, originally $90.
You’re not imagining it when you see everyone on Instagram traveling with one of Stoney Clover’s Instagram-friendly pouches. Get one for yourself at this discounted price. Your makeup will thank you later.
Featured photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images.

Ski season ends early at many mountains due to coronavirus

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information on the closing of additional resorts. 
It’s no secret that coronavirus (COVID-19) has essentially brought the travel industry to a temporary halt. The calendar says we are approaching what was planned to be peak spring break travel time for many. But now, the reality is that the local grocery store is about as far as most of us are traveling.
When it comes to ski resorts, the solitude of an almost empty run sounds like a perfect socially distanced activity, but there’s more to the story. The lifts, gondolas, rental shops, ticket offices, lunch breaks, apres ski and more still bring people together in groups larger than the currently recommended numbers. 
So while ski resorts first tried to integrate new distancing and cleaning recommendations in light of coronavirus, that was quickly followed by a temporary pause in operations. Now, many major ski resorts have called it quits on the 2019–2020 ski season.
Here’s a look at what’s happening at ski resorts around the country and a peek at how this may impact those ski passes that you weren’t quite done using.
Complete guide to traveling during the deadly coronavirus outbreak
Vail Resorts
The operator of 37 ski resorts around the world (including Vail, Park City, Heavenly, Whistler and more) and the creator of the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts stated as of Tuesday that all North American ski resorts will remain closed for the 2019–2020 ski season, due to the fast-moving situation involving COVID-19.
However, Vail also stated it would consider reopening Breckenridge, Whistler Blackcomb and Heavenly in late April/early May, dependent on the situation with COVID-19, as well as weather conditions. Last season, many ski resorts operated until late May — with some going all the way until the Fourth of July weekend. 
You can request refunds on certain prepaid Vail Resorts expenses online, however, thus far that does not extend to Epic Pass products. Eligible refund requests include:

Lift Tickets
Ski & Ride School
Lodging and Vacation Packages
Winter Activities
Childcare Bookings
Equipment Rentals (booked on RentSkis.com or SkiRentals.com)

Can I cancel or change a ticket booked through the Amex or Chase Travel Portal due to coronavirus?
Alterra Mountain Company
Alterra is the owner/operator of 15 North American mountain destinations, including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia.
Skiing in Mammoth in mid-March (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Alterra resorts are included on the Ikon Pass and the group decided to close starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice citing the best interest of “guests, employees and local communities.” (CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures will continue to operate through Tuesday, March 21.)
In terms of refunds, CEO Rusty Gregory said that “Each resort will work directly with guests in canceling their visit and will provide refunds to those who have hotel and other bookings during this closure period.” He added that heavy call volume is anticipated over the next several days, and that “guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries” is appreciated.
While there is talk of some of these mountains calling it quits on the season, others have said they will reevaluate late-season operations at a future date.
Aspen Snowmass
Aspen Snowmass has closed “by the order of the Governor of Colorado.” They have not yet committed to remaining closed for the season and state that, “the plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited late-season opening if circumstances allow.”
Aspen skyline from an overlook in the winter (Photo by Jonathan Ross/Getty Images)
In terms of refunds, lift tickets, Ski & Snowboard School lessons, Four Mountain Sports equipment rentals and activities reservations are fully refundable. To process your refund, you have until April 30, 2020, to call 1-800-525-6200 and have your order confirmation number available.
For season passes, Aspen Snowmass states: “We will have answers to season pass refund requests once we know if we are reopening or not.”
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Like so many of the others, the iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed for the remainder of the season effective March 15. Its decision to close the resort follows a Health Order directed by the Wyoming State Health Officer and issued by the Teton District Health Officer.
The resort will work with guests and passholders to “provide recovery assistance regarding refunds or future credits.”
Epic, Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders
Usually, holding a ski season pass is a good thing. However, in this case, passholders are still in limbo whether they’ve used the pass 20 times or zero times, while holders of unused lift tickets can largely request refunds.
On the one hand, the majority of the ski season was behind us at most resorts when the unexpected closures happened. On the other hand, spring break skiing is a big factor when choosing a ski pass, so many ski passholders had planned skiing yet to occur.
Technically, ski passes are nonrefundable and nontransferable. In fact, one goal of a pass is to level out income in the event it’s a bad snow year or similar. However, poor snow is one thing, but no one really could have predicted a global pandemic shutting down basically every ski resort in the country.
(Photo courtesy of Epic Mountain Express)
At this point, there has been no communication from the major pass programs on potential refunds or future discounts. However, there are clues for what may be done on their respective social media accounts.
Ikon’s Facebook page responses state that “We are working through new policies and protocols and will post new information as it becomes available.” That reads to me that some discounts or credits haven’t been ruled out.
Mountain Collective’s response on social media reads, “We will be reviewing refund and credit policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We very much appreciate your patience as the fast-moving situation evolves.”
Epic’s response to date on social media has been, “Pursuant to the terms of all season pass and Epic Day Pass products, they are nonrefundable and nontransferable to another season. We will be reviewing these policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time.”
Visit our hub here for full coronavirus travel coverage.
Bottom line
Now is not the time to travel but it is, of course, unfortunate that even outdoor ski resorts cannot safely operate for the time being. In fact, some of the major Colorado ski country counties are COVID-19 outbreak hot spots.
Right now, some mountains are expressly prohibiting even uphill skiing (where you climb up yourself), while others are allowing that process at your own risk.
Additional reporting by Katie Coakley
Featured image by Adventure_Photo/Getty Images

The stark differences in coronavirus screening at airports in Shanghai and Washington, DC

For the past week, travelers from around the globe have scrambled to make last-minute return flight arrangements from work trips or vacations that were cut short. As the threat of coronavirus becomes more real, people want to be sure they can get home — or travel to their loved ones to help them weather these unpredictable times.
Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates
It’s been fascinating to hear travelers’ stories about their different experiences as they arrive at various airports around the world. Some airports, including many in China, are meticulously screening passengers before even letting them on flights, and as they arrive back into the country. At airports in the United States, the “welcome home” has ranged from absolutely no questions asked about recent travel to hours-long lines dangerously crowded with travelers, all so they can have their temperature taken before being allowed off the property.
Today we’ll hear two stories: One from Fei Cao, an American living in Shanghai, and another from TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg. Ms. Cao was on vacation and traveling back to Shanghai, while Steinberg, who lives in Shanghai, was returning to the U.S. to be with family.
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In This Post

Traveling to Shanghai
Fei Cao, a long-time TPG reader, is a U.S. citizen who relocated to Shanghai in September with her husband. Just before the big move, they took a two-month-long vacation funded entirely by points and miles.
They were visiting the U.S. with plans to return to Shanghai on March 11. Here’s how that unfolded.
The U.S. leg of the trip
The first leg of their trip was on American Airlines, in economy, from Miami (MIA) to Houston (IAH).
“From IAH, we took EVA to Shanghai (SHA) with a layover at Taipei (TPE). Our EVA flight was booked in premium economy and upgraded to Laurel Business class with points transferred from our Citi account,” Cao said.
The mood on the aircraft “was a mix of nervous [and] nonchalant,” she observed. “The couple next to us wiped their seat prior to sitting. However, no one wore masks or took precautions. Overall, the domestic portion of our flight was not very different than our previous flights.”
“We did use the Amex [Centurion Lounge] in MIA; it was relatively empty compared to our previous visits,” said Cao, who couldn’t recall if there were hand sanitizers at the front desk. At the EVA lounge in Taipei, on the other hand, Cao and her husband said, “attendants enforced strict hand hygiene and did not check us in until we cleaned our hands.”
Related: How to ward off coronavirus in a hotel room
Boarding an EVA flight for Shanghai via Taipei
The couple began to notice upgraded precautions at IAH when checking in for their long-haul flight. “At IAH, all the EVA crew and staff wore face masks and gloves. The business class check-in staff member was wearing a mask but she had a runny nose and was coughing, which really horrified us.” Cao said that, of the entire trip, this caused the most anxiety.
“Our flight from IAH to TPE was about 80% filled in the business-class cabin. We estimate that the economy-class cabin was about 70 to 80% filled as well,” she estimated.
“The economy-class cabin from Taipei to Shanghai was about filled. We think it’s because many Chinese nationals are returning to China due to worsening viral conditions elsewhere, and TPE was one of the few ports that did not require quarantine in China. However, this policy has changed since we took our flight — when we landed in SHA, Beijing changed the rules to have mandatory quarantine for all international inbound passengers.”
Cao said the passengers were generally not nervous. “We saw a lot more passengers wearing face masks and gloves on this flight, as compared to our domestic flight. In business class, almost everyone wiped down their seats before sitting. Once the flight took off, we didn’t feel much different.”
“We had a 10-hour layover in Taipei and, during our transit, we exited the airport (the screening was not very extensive and exit was extremely smooth) and stayed at a nearby Novotel a subway stop away. Our reentry to the airport was also extremely easy because the airport was pretty empty.”
The next part of the journey is when the couple again felt a sense of anxiety.
“On our flight from Taipei to Shanghai, people were more nervous. Everyone was in gloves and face masks. The majority of people also had goggles. Some people wore ‘hazmat suits’ that ranged from raincoats to overalls.”
“We felt more anxious about this trip than our previous travel experiences,” Cao said. “Our anxiety was mainly because if we were to contract the virus during our travel, we would be forced to stay in a government quarantine facility and not be able [to] self-quarantine at home.”
Related: These are the global coronavirus travel restrictions by country
Changes to inflight service
TPG was curious if it was business as usual in the air, or if the couple noticed any differences from previous travels.
“We flew business class on EVA from Paris (CDG) to Taipei before, so [we] had a point of reference,” Cao said. “Our IAH to TPE flight was very similar to our previous experience, with the exception that all the flight attendants wore face masks, gloves and some even wore eye goggles. The level of service was still excellent … we were offered a welcome drink, snacks, turndown service [and] cabin crew would often check in on us when we were awake. Same as amenities: We were offered pajamas as well as amenity kit.”
But, “the flight from TPE to PVG was completely different,” Cao noted. “There was no meal service available, we were told this is due to the virus situation in China. In flight, the cabin crew gave us a prepackaged bag with water, apple juice, cake and cookies.”
Cao said there weren’t amenity bags, blankets or slippers waiting for her and her husband in the business class seats. “To get them,” Cao said, “we had to specifically request them. The overall service from TPE was totally different. We chalked it up to the airlines wanting to decrease the amount of contact between the crew and passengers.”
Landing in Shanghai
Upon arrival in Shanghai, the couple witnessed the lengths the Chinese government is going to in the hopes of curtailing the spread of coronavirus. They were asked to fill out an extensive health declaration form.
China exit/entry health form. (Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
And, here’s more information about the entry process into Shanghai as of March 17:
Shanghai re-entry guidance as of March 17, 2020. (Image courtesy of Ethan Steinberg)
“When we landed in Shanghai at 6 p.m., our captain made an announcement saying that health inspectors will come on board,” Cao said.
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
“All the inspectors were in hazmat suits — every official [we] encountered from this point [wore] complete hazmat suits,” recalled Cao. “One inspector walked around the cabin (we think to look over passengers to make sure no one was visibly sick) while the other inspectors reviewed the manifest. They made an announcement in Chinese and English for all passengers to go back to their seats and wait to be called. During this time, the first inspector came back and told his colleagues in Chinese that there was a passenger from the U.S. who had a cough; they conferred a bit and led her out by herself.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
“After that passenger was led out, they called a series of names to line up and be inspected. The first group of passengers all had travel history in Europe within the past 14 days,” said Cao.
“We were called as part of the second group: all passengers who had travel history in the U.S. We assumed the order was by the severity of virus infections in the passenger’s countries of travel. When we got to the front, the officials looked at our health declarations, measured our temperatures (one of many times) and asked us if we were symptomatic. They recorded our temperatures and we went off the plane and waited near the gate with the rest of the people [who] were called up with us. According to the health officials, we were to wait there until the first group cleared the next phase of the health exam.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
Cao said they waited about an hour before arriving at the health check area. “There, we underwent temperature monitoring (second temperature check) and had to wait in line to be individually interviewed by health officials. While waiting for our extensive health check, multiple officers in hazmat suits walked around to give QR codes to scan on the Chinese messaging program WeChat to fill out additional health info, travel info as well as information on our hotel [or] place of residence. For foreigners who don’t have the app, it would be difficult to do a lot of this.”
“The line moved slowly, but after about another hour, we got to the front and we were individually interviewed by an official who asked us in-depth questions about specific cities we were in, sick contacts, occupation contacts, symptoms within the past 14 days. They also asked about our living arrangements (hotel, apartment, lease, etc).”
Cao said officials then gave every passenger a sticker. “[A green sticker] for anyone who hadn’t visited a high-risk country, yellow sticker for anyone who was low risk but had been to a high-risk country (we were yellow due to being in the U.S.), a red sticker was for anyone who was symptomatic or high risk. Green sticker travelers were able to exit as normal and return home, red sticker travelers went to automatic government quarantine.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
Since the couple’s passports were labeled with yellow stickers, they went to a special customs area to have another temperature check. Then, they proceeded through customs as normal.
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
Cao said, “Because we’ve been in and out of China a lot, our process was fast since they have our fingerprint and face recognition in their system.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
Cao felt good about the process — even if it delayed their re-entry into China. “While extensive and really inconvenient, we felt confident that because the Chinese government enforced these measures, they were able to keep the virus rate in check. The amount of manpower and coordination that went into this is pretty incredible and we feel relatively safe.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
“Due to our yellow sticker, we couldn’t leave the airport on our own and had to have a police escort,” Cao shared. “Here, the police questioned us extensively about our living situation, address, travel history and recorded everything. Travelers whose apartments are not adequate for quarantine, have roommates or don’t have any lodging are required to go to a designated quarantine hotel. Those whose housing is suitable for quarantine can be picked up by a family member or taken to their residence by police. Due to being a yellow sticker traveler, we were not allowed to take commercial transportation to decrease the exposure risk of other people.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
Once at home, the couple’s self-quarantine began.
“When we arrived at our apartment, we were met by a local health official who examined our apartment to make sure was suitable for quarantine,” Cao said. “He then administered a health check as well as measured our temperatures. At this time, we also signed a form declaring that we will abide by quarantine regulations and not leave our apartment for 14 days. He notified us that he will come back daily to administer a temperature check and health check. When everything was set and done, it was around midnight when we were finally able to unpack and relax.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
“China has an extensive delivery service where anything can be bought and delivered,” Cao said. “Our apartment has a front desk that’s always staffed and will bring us everything we ordered so we adhere to quarantine.”
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
(Photo courtesy of Fei Cao)
So, how does Ethan Steinberg’s account of arriving in Washington, D.C. from Asia during this same period compare to Ms. Cao’s experience returning to Shanghai from the U.S.?
Arriving in Washington, D.C.
Steinberg is also an American who lives and works in Shanghai, but his family is here in the U.S. He wanted to return home to be with his family during the coronavirus scare — and his arrival at a U.S. airport was markedly different than Ms. Cao’s.
He booked his travel from Shanghai to Washington, D.C. via Tokyo on separate tickets. He flew ANA first class for the Tokyo to D.C. leg of the trip. When asked if there were any health screening measures to get into the Asian airports, Steinberg said, “of course.”
“Both Shanghai and Tokyo Narita (NRT) had multiple temperature checks before you could even enter the airport, let alone clear customs,” he said.
When he boarded his ANA flight, Steinberg realized he was the only passenger in first. “Looked like 100 passengers, maximum, on the Boeing 777-300ER. The day before, when I flew Shanghai (PVG) to Narita, we had 15 total passengers on a 767 — yet weirdly enough, the eight of us in economy all sat in the first two rows.”
We were curious about any health checks that might have been performed, or if any health officials met the aircraft at the gate. Steinberg said there were none.
“I arrived on Sunday, March 8,” Steinberg said, “and no one met us at the plane.” He added that while he did end up experiencing a health check later in the entry process, he believes it was just because his Global Entry receipt was X’d out.
“A customs agent asked about my travel history and seemed shocked, and sort of taken off guard, when I said I’d been in China just 35 hours ago,” Steinberg explained. “He led me over to another desk, where I was apparently the first passenger that the customs agents had to train on the new system. They redirected me to a small CDC health screening area, where they took my temperature and gave me an info packet to take home.”
Steinberg said the screening probably should have only taken about five minutes, “but the customs agents were going slow while they learned the system.” All in all, it took about 20 minutes to go through the process. During the health screening, he was told that there might be additional follow up and that he should check his temperature twice daily and log it. But, Steinberg says no one has contacted him since arriving back int he U.S.
“It’s scary that the process to leave China is 10 times stricter than the process to get into the U.S.,” Steinberg confided, “and it’s scary going from a city that has this under control to one that absolutely doesn’t.”
Featured image by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Should you really book that incredible travel deal right now?

Want to fly between Houston and Newark for $30? How about a $22 transcontinental flight? And a flight from the New York City area to London? That starts at a cool $111 all-in.
You don’t have to be an aviation analyst to know that that those prices are significantly lower than normal. You can also probably guess why with 100% certainty. In many cases, the low fares extend into the normally peak summer months, if not beyond. While no one knows how long coronavirus will have an affect on daily life around the world, the hope is that it will, at some point, lessen its grip.
So, should you be guessing when the situation will improve and taking advantage of some of the outrageous travel deals available right now?
Maybe. But also, maybe not.


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Avoid near-term travel
I don’t care if an airline is offering free flights right now: Unless you absolutely must travel to relocate to a better location for the duration of the outbreak, or for a medical reasons, no price is worth a leisure trip at the moment due to the priority of social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus.
If you’re curious, here’s TPG’s official stance on travel at the moment:

The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips.
Health officials note the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel.
We support the travel industry and want to be there for it and encourage more trips, but only when the time is right.
Instead of traveling right now, we suggest this is the time to plan your next vacation. You don’t have to book yet, but figure out where you want to go and map out the right strategy for building up the right points and miles for those trips.
TPG can guide travelers through this process. We’ll share the news when it’s time to start booking, but at least for the short term let’s all do as much as we can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that includes hitting pause on travel.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates
Know the change policies
Once you start looking at potential travel deals further out on the calendar, you still need to be mindful of change and cancellation policies.
While no one knows when “normal” will return, if you spot an appealing travel deal for later in the year, just be sure it’s either so cheap you won’t mind walking away, or there’s a generous change or cancellation fee waiver in place. When it comes to booking airfare, most U.S. airlines are waiving change fees on future travel booked right now. I recommend booking directly with the airlines to cut down on the extra hassle you might encounter when reserving travel through a third-party site.
The change policies, however, aren’t consistent across the industry. They vary from airline to airline, from one hotel chain to the next, and you’ll find them to be vastly different from cruise lines to vacation rental sites. So, read the fine print before swiping your travel rewards credit card on a future travel deal.
Related: The best credit cards that offer trip cancellation and interruption coverage
Can you tie up more money in travel?
Even if the travel deal you want is changeable, think long and hard about whether now is the time to tie up more of your funds in travel. Changeable and fully refundable aren’t the same things, so carefully evaluate your personal situation in these ever-changing times before giving a travel company more of your cash.
If you’re using points or miles to book an incredible deal, that equation shifts since you can’t typically eat your miles or use them to pay rent — well, unless you’re cashing in for a fancy premium cabin award where the airline may indeed feed you pretty well once this event is over. If you’re using a travel voucher, miles or have the budget to put aside funds for future travel, that’s a very different scenario than if you are struggling to stock up your pantry with necessities.
For example, those normally almost impossible to book premium cabin awards might be more bountiful than ever at the moment. There’s probably nothing wrong with scooping up some of those awards for travel later this year as long as you’re comfortable with the change and cancellation stipulations.
Air Tahiti Nui business class awards are wide open (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Do you know where you want to travel?
Six weeks ago, most of us were probably avoiding trips to Asia, as COVID-19 intensified there first. Then we canceled trips to South Korea, Japan, Iran, and later Italy and other parts of Europe.
Now, the U.S. has growing hot spots of its own, while some parts of Asia are (hopefully) beginning to round the corner of this crisis. Disney World in Florida, for example, just closed its doors to the public on Sunday night, while Shanghai Disneyland has been closed since Jan. 25. But as Cinderella Castle in Florida enters its period of darkness, Shanghai Disneyland is showings signs of a phased reopening. As the first step toward welcoming back guests, the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, Wishing Star Park and some shopping, dining and recreational experiences have recently resumed limited operations.
Disney’s castle in Shanghai. (Photo by Dia Adams)
This one example shows that it’s hard to guess which parts of the world will be ready for tourists before others. So, before you book a travel deal, just think about whether you really know where you’ll want to travel. Of course, if you make very flexible plans, you may not need a crystal ball to start booking future travel.
Related: Should I travel? Advice for the coronavirus outbreak
Bottom line
I’m a deal hunter. I love the thrill of finding and booking a travel bargain. I’m also a serious supporter of the travel industry and want to see it emerge from the other side of this crisis in one piece.
But even I am being very conservative about booking new travel at this juncture, despite the tempting deals. There are just so many unknowns. There’s also the reality that I still have some travel already booked for later in 2020, so I’d rather wait and see if that happens as planned and apply those travel credits elsewhere if needed, than put any substantial amount of additional dollars on the table. That said, you may find me speculatively making some future award travel plans that I’m OK with changing if the situation warrants.
I’m not 100% opposed to picking up very inexpensive or truly refundable deals later in the year, and I’m much more likely to use miles or less flexible points to book some award travel deals than spend large amounts of cash — at least until we’re closer to the other side of this trying tunnel.
Featured image by SasinParaksa/Getty Images.

Kelp jerky, $60 naps and so many gym classes I got banned: My stay at the Equinox Hotel

It was a stay so good I fainted. Or rather, it was a stay so good I decided to have an IV drip just for fun — and then I fainted.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In an office full of Hilton Diamonds, Hyatt Globalists and Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elites, I rarely receive the same kind of premium perks as my colleagues when I stay at hotels.
But at one of New York City’s newest hotels — the Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards — I can flex an entirely new kind of preferred membership: My Equinox fitness club all-access pass.
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(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I’ve been a devout Equinox member since 2015. I use my membership to take classes at 26 different locations around Manhattan and get access to premium bathrooms and lockers no matter where I am in the city. So, ever since the wellness brand broke ground on its first-ever hotel venture, in Hudson Yards (the largest private real estate development in the history of the country), I’ve been dreaming of a staycation at this luxury property.
Related: Use your points to book a wellness retreat
When the 212-room Equinox Hotel began welcoming guests in July, we wondered if people would really want to bed down in a hotel run by a fitness brand. The answer, it turns out, is unequivocally yes. This is a review of a two-night stay at the flagship Equinox Hotel in New York City. But it’s also a story about how a wellness powerhouse cracked the code on sleeping in a city that, until now, supposedly never slept — and how much people are willing to pay for the privilege.
The Equinox Hotel isn’t part of any loyalty program, though eligible American Express and Chase cardholders can book this property through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) and Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection (LHRC), respectively for some nice perks.
Related: Booking hotels through a credit card portal
Both luxury hotel booking programs include elite-like perks such as daily breakfast for two, an upgrade on arrival when available, a $100 property credit and other extras. Travelers should note that, on the same date, a stay booked through Amex FHR (available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express), was pricing at $585, while the Chase rate was nearly $100 more ($675). Booking direct through the property or through an OTA like Hotels.com and you’d pay only $555 on that same evening, making the Amex FHR rate the best overall value, with the $100 property credit and breakfast.
Related: The best credit cards for hotel stays in 2020
We booked a two-night stay in late January through Hotels.com (for a nonrefundable rate of $465 per night) because we had earned a Hotels.com free night (worth up to $345) to help offset the cost.
Whether booked through an OTA, a luxury hotel program or directly through Equinox, guests essentially receive memberships to the Equinox Hudson Yards fitness center (read: the hotel gym) for the duration of their stay. That includes access to all the facilities, including a eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, multiple pools and unlimited fitness classes.
The Equinox Hotel is located in the heart of New York City’s flashy new Hudson Yards development on the city’s far west side, at the coveted 33 Hudson Yards address. Tucked between 11th Avenue and 33rd Street, the hotel is across from the Vessel, a futuristic Thomas Heatherwick-designed landmark that, in the summer, doubles as the world’s most ostentatious workout prop. From many public areas, you can admire views of the remaining exposed west side rail yards and the Hudson River beyond.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
If you’re in New York City for a convention at the Javits Center, the Equinox Hotel is extremely convenient, though that’s pretty much it. Hudson Yards, and this entire part of the west side, feels far from just about everything you’re likely to do. It’s also still very much in development; getting to the hotel both on foot and by car can be impeded by the massive construction zones all over this part of Manhattan.
One upside to the location is that it connects to the High Line, which runs south through Chelsea to the Meatpacking District. The hotel is also a 10-minute walk to New York Penn Station. On the subway, travelers can get here via the 7 train or, perhaps better, take an Uber, which will drop you off right out front. Later this year, Hudson Yards will also be home to Edge, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere.
Official check-in at the Equinox Hotel is 3 p.m., but I wanted to arrive early and drop off my luggage (er, gym bag) and scout out the property. So, I called around 10 a.m. to see what time I could check in, and was told to come by anytime. As I found out later, getting late checkout wouldn’t be so easy: When I asked at the front desk the following day, I was only able to get an additional 30 minutes tacked on to my staycation.
There are two separate entrances at the Equinox Hotel: One for guests and one for gym members. The 60,000-square-foot Equinox fitness center is technically a “destination club,” meaning you need a membership to that specific club or a “destination access membership” to get in.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Guests entering the hotel walk through a modest entryway that reminded me of the Times Square Edition. Attendants in white Karl Lagerfeld jackets directed us to walk through the stone-and-wood space, past an undulating metal wall that made you feel as though you were traveling through some kind of portal, and to the elevator to the 25th-floor lobby.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Upstairs, in an ultramodern space complete with black stone floors and Zaha Hadid-designed sofas, hotel staff members wore custom white pantsuits and manned two freestanding front desks constructed of resin and stone.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Every design element seemed luxurious — or at least expensive — including the custom light fixture suspended over the Stephen Starr bar and restaurant below.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
At check-in, I found out just how far my unconventional “status” would go: During my stay, I’d receive free gym clothes laundering as an Equinox member (talk about elite perks, right?). I also received a complimentary “Quantum Harmonics Brain & Body Boost” treatment at the spa as a perk of Hotels.com gold status. I inquired about guesting additional people into the gym during my stay, to which I was told, “No limit … within reason.”
Then I was given two room keys and directed to a separate elevator bank up to the 32nd floor.
Number of free Golden Delicious apples consumed during two-night stay: At least three. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Hotel rooms in New York City are notoriously small, but when I opened the door to room 3217, I was stunned by the amount of square footage (400, to be exact) in the entry-level Deluxe City View guest room.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There was a sprawling entryway with a black marble console and a trio of floor-to-ceiling adjustable mirrors.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The space was large enough to accommodate excess luggage, fashion shows or full workouts — the latter, if I had to guess, was the point.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Rooms at the Equinox Hotel are basically sleep temples, with serious soundproofing (including padded walls and upholstered leather headboards) that effectively blocked out the cacophony from the construction sites and train yards below.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
All-natural, spring-free Coco-Mat mattresses are designed to keep you cool at night. By some sort of sorcery, they really don’t transfer movement, either, and even travelers with restless partners should be able to sleep through the night undisturbed. It helps that the beds have two separate duvets, too. This is also supposed to help with temperature regulation, but it means your bedmate can’t hog the covers either.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Everything in the room is whisper quiet (there’s even a specially designed A/C system) and all the commonplace sources of ambient noise and light have been eliminated. At night, custom blackout blinds conceal every trace of light from the 10-foot windows. Once I finally figured out how to turn off the bedside tablet (flipping it face down on the night stand), the only luminescence my eyes detected was a tiny green flash from the smoke detector.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Turn on the room’s night settings and everything becomes impossibly dark, quiet and cool — 66 degrees, supposedly the optimal temperature for sleep. But simply sit up and step off the bed, and a motion-activated light illuminates the floor with a soft glow.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead of a desk, the room had an angular velvet chaise and a marble pedestal table. This seemed like a style-over-substance decor decision, but when I actually sat down to write on my laptop, I realized it was a smart substitution: The table height was perfect for working or eating room service, but the chaise was far more comfortable for lounging or watching television than the furniture you usually find shoved into the corner of a hotel room.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
A TV equipped with an Apple TV box was recessed into the wall across from the bed, though it took me until the second night to realize it wasn’t working (the only channels I could get were CNN and a screensaver of Monet paintings). I considered calling the front desk for help, but after three fitness classes and an invasive medical — ahem, spa — treatment, I could hardly stay awake once I climbed into bed.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The bathroom, which could be completely closed off from the rest of the room by a sliding louvered door, was a revelation. Sadly, there was no bathtub (select suites have black-marble soaking tubs) but the stone walk-in shower had a trio of adjustable taps and a bench (if you’ve ever tried to shave the back of your knee, you’ll know why I used the word “revelation” here).
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I couldn’t figure out how to get all the taps on at once, which was frustrating, and having the faucet on the side of the sink was also a bit awkward.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
But there were many surprising details here that offset those small annoyances. Among them: Towels with loops that easily hung onto hooks without sliding off, and hooded boxer-inspired Reigning Champ bathrobes that guests could be seen wearing all over the hotel.
Like the foyer, the mirror panels in the bathroom could also be adjusted, so you could see the back of your head — perfect for hot styling tools.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead of the fitness brand’s signature Kiehl’s products, I was surprised to find an array of Grown Alchemist amenities made from botanicals harvested from the nearby High Line park. Yes, really. I can’t remember the last time I tried a hotel product I liked so much. I went to buy it at the spa, and I was thrilled the room had full-size dispensers so there was no limit to how much of the calming evening cleanser, fragrant with chamomile, Tasmanian pepper and tangerine, I could use.
Usually, this is the part of a hotel review that would talk about the gym and spa. But the Equinox Hotel is essentially a massive fitness mecca with rooms piled on top, so instead, I want to tell you about the utter glory and insanity of the ensuite minibar — basically a closet filled with everything from Diet Coke and roasted nuts to mysterious tonics, potions and lotions.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Take almost everything you thought you knew about hotel minibars, run those preconceptions through a Pilates reformer and ask Gwyneth Paltrow to restock the amenities. The result is the Equinox Hotel RoomBar.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Spread across more than half a dozen drawers and shelves, the in-room “minibar” included everything from a complimentary Nespresso station to healthy snacks (crispy almond-butter Brussels sprouts; spicy Thai and spirulina-flavored kelp jerky) and familiar soft beverages.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There were also locally crafted liquors and chilled bottles of wine and Champagne; fitness gear and accessories to use during your stay; and Rhone athletic wear for purchase.
There were also shelves and drawers stocked with dietary supplements, and other wellness products you can probably buy on Goop.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Among the most baffling was an ampoule full of “hypertonic” (read: seawater) you’re supposed to consume on an empty stomach to promote “cell renewal, energy levels and protein synthesis,” whatever that means. I was also intrigued by the Magnesium Ease spray that promised to aid with sleep and muscle recovery with just three spritzes, and a vial of mysterious “brain fuel” that apparently improves concentration and other “cranial” functions.
I think I’ll stick to my daily iced coffee, thank you very much.
But after perusing the very entertaining (and expensive) selection of products, I decided to change into my gym clothes, grab a free bag of popped turmeric-and-garlic-flavored water lily seeds and head downstairs to the gym.
Fitness center and spa
The Equinox Hotel is anchored by a 60,000-square-foot fitness center with everything you’d expect to find at a hotel gym (cardio equipment, free weights, weight machines) — just at a massive scale. I couldn’t even count the number of treadmills.
Related: The best hotel gyms on earth 
Hotel guests and club members enter a sprawling, living room-style lounge area and coworking space marked by chevron-patterned wood flooring that extends up the walls toward the ceiling, oversized velvet sectionals and geometric leather ottomans.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Sheer volume aside, the amenities likely to appeal most to travelers are the heated outdoor pool and roof deck; the indoor saltwater lap pool; the hot and cold plunge pools; and unlimited access to Equinox’s robust lineup of group fitness classes.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Between the official check-in time (3 p.m. on Friday) and checkout time (noon on Sunday), I took as many classes as possible: Vinyasa yoga, a barre class, a kickboxing-focused circuit called Rounds, a HIIT-style class called Whipped and Anthem, a spin class that’s basically Equinox’s version of SoulCycle — though, since Equinox owns that, too, you can always just take an actual SoulCycle class downstairs at the adjacent studio for an additional fee.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The sixth class I took was a late-afternoon Barrel Sauna Meditation course that’s exclusive to this club. An instructor leads a 20-minute guided meditation inside the barrel saunas with no more than six students inside.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Come summer, the sundeck here is apparently quite a scene, with cocktails circulating around the pool chairs. But during the winter, there are four freestanding barrel saunas travelers can use — along with the pool and outdoor showers — as part of a regenerative post-workout circuit.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
As a person who absolutely loves working out, I can honestly tell you I was having the time of my life seeing how many classes I could feasibly cram into a weekend stay. That is, until I received the dreaded nastygram from Equinox: “Oh no! That’s your third missed class.”
Continue reading: How to stay fit while traveling
Equinox members will recognize this digital slap on the wrist as the one you receive when you book, but late-cancel or skip, three classes within a 30-day period. The punishment? You can’t make online reservations for classes for an entire week.
I know what you’re thinking: No, I didn’t actually skip any of these classes.
Prior to checking in at the hotel, I tried to book some of these classes through the Equinox app in advance so I’d get a head start on my marathon weekend of wellness. But because I don’t usually have access to this location, I wasn’t able to sign up.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Unless you have an Equinox membership that includes access to the Hudson Yards location, you’ll need to register for classes through the concierge. Because my hotel reservation was under the same email that’s linked to my gym membership, the Equinox app was seeing that I’d signed up for these classes — but hotel guests don’t check in this way. Instead, my name had been put on a guest list.
And, honestly, after showing up for my third or fourth class, they weren’t even checking me in at that point. They just waved me along like, “There’s that crazy girl with all the questions who keeps taking photos of everything.”
Because the app never registered me checking into the gym, I had been banned from booking more classes by Saturday night.
Though the concierge could keep adding me to the list, he couldn’t help me with my personal membership problem. For that, I had to reach out to the gym’s manager. It took me a couple of days to get an answer from someone who could waive my punishment. It struck me as a bit odd that, as a longstanding gym member and a paying hotel guest, I’d been penalized for making great use of the facilities. Though it was a small nuisance, it’s strange Equinox hasn’t encountered this yet — or at least bothered to come up with a workaround.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
After all, Harvey Spevak, executive chairman and managing partner for Equinox, told The New York Times in 2019 that the idea for the property came from Equinox members who were choosing hotels based on accessibility to Equinox clubs.
And though I’d been told at the front desk I could add multiple people to the guest list — in my circle of fitness fiends, having access to this club is like getting guested into a Centurion Lounge — when I tried to do so with the concierge, I was told only hotel guests on the reservation were allowed on the guest list.
Strength training is more fun with views of The Vessel — I promise! (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Again, I was a bit surprised that the experience wasn’t more seamless. Where, I wondered, was the extra love for members who weren’t just paying upwards of $500 a night to be hotel guests, but who pay more than $200 in dues every single month?
I did love the complimentary gym clothes laundering service (typically $10)  that — as promised — had my clothes picked up, washed, dried, folded and returned in about two hours.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There was another quirk to the fitness club experience. Guests are promised 24-hour access to the gym, but when I inquired at the front desk about this, I was told the club closes to guests when it closes to members (times vary depending on the day). You don’t get exclusive access to the sprawling gym floor, studios, swimming pools or lounge areas.
Instead, guests can be escorted by security to the sixth-floor E by Equinox, the brand’s notoriously expensive, ultra-exclusive training club. I could not wait to see what a $500 monthly gym membership gets you. Privacy, it turns out, and not much else.
The spartan floor has two mismatched treadmills, a single step machine and a few benches (the space is intended more for personal training than sitting on a stationary bike for an hour). All the marble, leather and opulence, it turns out, is reserved for the locker rooms, which have private changing rooms, toilets, showers and vanities.
Oh, and the Fiji water and fruit selection in this neck of the wild Equinox woods is excellent.
Many Equinox clubs have spas, but few have the sort of lavish, high-tech, ultratrendy treatments you’ll find at the Equinox Hotel. Everything on the treatment menu seems to promise to make you slimmer, stronger or smarter — or some combination of the three.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I was tempted by the Facexercise Body Sculpt + Tone massage that promised to make me look leaner, or the $1,800 Lunar28 facial that came with a set of serums that retails for $1,600. This is all supposed to resurface your face and make you look supernally luminous but, for some reason, my budget request to pay for this was denied. Bummer!
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead, I decided that — in the name of good travel journalism — I should try the treatments that promised to cure jet lag. Or, at least, leave you feeling well-rested and alert.
I won’t go into the details here (that’s for another story coming shortly) but the quick version is that I took advantage of my complimentary Quantum Harmonics treatment, which promised to give me the experience of getting at least three hours of sleep in 30 minutes. It’s billed as “immersive sound and harmonic resonance therapy” on a Wave Table. I didn’t wake up from my nap (normally $60 for 30 minutes) feeling groggy, as I usually do. But I’m also not sure I ever actually fell asleep.
The next day, I wanted to try something more, er, involved: a supervised IV nutrient drip. I requested the $250 Jet Lag formula — a shockingly bright infusion of Vitamin C, zinc and other vitamins and minerals — and the CliffsNotes of this tale is that having an IV inserted at a spa isn’t any less petrifying than a doctor’s office to someone who faints at the sight of her own blood (that’s me).
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
In my semiprivate relaxation “pod” overlooking the still-exposed western railyard, it will surprise absolutely no one to know that I may have just ever so briefly passed out after the IV was inserted.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Fortunately, I passed out under the supervision of a registered nurse and already had an IV hookup of fluids in a fancy spa with fancy dried fruits and fancy teas and infused water. If you’re going to faint, I can recommend the spa at the Equinox Hotel as the place to do so.
After I recovered from the shock of the IV (and of having convinced myself to voluntarily pay hundreds of dollars for this experience) I very nearly stopped panicking long enough to enjoy the view.
Food and beverage
Shortly after opening, the Equinox Hotel welcomed Electric Lemon, a concept from James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I’m not sure why, but I expected the restaurant and bar to be dead during my stay. After all, a winter storm was rolling in, it was frightfully cold and windy and, to most New Yorkers, Hudson Yards is just out there. 
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
But from relatively early in the morning until late, late at night, this place was bustling with a young, very stylish crowd. Every seat seemed to be full, and in the summer, they no doubt spill out onto the 8,000-square-foot terrace, with its original Jaume Plensa sculpture and reflecting pool.
I’m not usually one for visiting “hip” places, but this was certainly one of those.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Over the course of the weekend, I had dinner and drinks here, as well as a light lunch. The clean, health-focused American menu was fun and almost fanciful.
On Friday night, my boyfriend met me at the 24th-floor restaurant for dinner. It was around 8 p.m. and we were told that, without reservations, we could either grab seats at the long, communal table for an hour and 30 minutes (the pressure!) or wait until 10 p.m.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Neither of us had eaten much that day, so we promptly filled in seats between two other parties at the communal table and set about ordering the newly fashioned deviled crab crudo with ginger dressing ($24), and a black bass served with poblano, salsa borracha and a side of warm tortillas ($41) that seems to be a menu mainstay. We also ordered the Atlantic cod ($36) which was cooked well but entirely too salty.
The drinks were excellent (try the Blue Thai with vodka, galangal, Thai basil and blueberries) but, as with everything in this neighborhood, gut-wrenchingly expensive even by New York City standards: a cool $18. Then again, you can’t buy a condo in this building for less than $5 million, so the menu prices were consistent with the kind of crowd Hudson Yards seems so determined to attract.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Like dinner, room service in the morning was prompt, filling and tasty — but cost an awful lot of money for food I wouldn’t venture back to Hudson Yards for — $34 covered the small pot of coffee and avocado toast. After compulsory service charge and tip, the bill totaled more than $53.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I placed my order through the tablet, and my meal — packed neatly into a metal bento box-style arrangement (a refreshing departure from those oversized and somewhat embarrassing carts) — arrived within 30 minutes.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Coffee and other light beverages were available by the pool deck, though I suspect this space is more for cocktails and food during the summer.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Back at Electric Lemon for lunch — this time in front of the gas fireplace by the bar — I was impressed by, of all things, a dish called “fancy vegetables and dip.” The artful arrangement included broccolini, heirloom carrots, rosy pink lettuce and other leaves and roots.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
At street level, just past the fitness club entrance, there’s an outpost of Juice Press, typical for New York Equinox locations. I ordered an iced turmeric latte with ginger, vanilla, honey and oat milk. This is, after all, the Equinox Hotel, right?
When I’d finally exhausted all my onsite options (and consumed three or four of the free Golden Delicious apples in bowls all over the hotel), I started to venture off into Hudson Yards for sustenance. For guests who find the hotel’s dining venues limited, there are other overpriced places to eat in the immediate vicinity.
One in particular — Tavern by WS — is an elegant brasserie in the same tower as the hotel, though you’ll have to leave the building and go around the corner to get there.
This is the kind of fare you’re probably going to be craving after six workout classes and a puncture wound. At least, I know I was. Lobster ravioli and a steaming bowl of minestrone with San Marzano tomatoes and pole beans was just the ticket.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Overall impression
I drank gallons of snake oil during my two-night stay at Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards and I loved every single sip.
Before checking in, I thought I’d love the Equinox Hotel, if only for its proximity to my gym. Like so many members, missing my Thursday morning kickboxing class or Monday evening cycling class can be one of the less-fun parts of traveling. I am a creature of habit, if nothing else.
But I can honestly say now the Equinox Hotel is one of my new favorite properties in the city for a staycation.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
In the refined glow of Hudson Yards, guests can count on a good night’s sleep — the kind you usually have to work 80-hour weeks to earn. In fact, the hotel experience was more seamless than the fitness club experience, which seemed somehow to not take into consideration the Equinox members the hotel was supposedly designed for in the first place.
By the time I wrapped up my final gym class of the weekend — a 45-minute kickboxing circuit — I was famished. So, I just may have grabbed that $12 bag of kelp jerky on my way out.
All photos by the author.