Virtual Vacations and Travel Tips for the Ages

Queer Travelogue: Arm Chair Jaunts Across the Globe During COVID-19

There has never been a better time to plan your future travels. Even if you don’t go there, it is still fun to read about what is going on in other cities. Especially while you are sitting at home during COVID-19 self-isolation orders.

In this column, I explore armchair travel, give some good websites of my fellow LGBTQ travel writers, and suggest some ideas of where to go when travel resumes. Plus, I share my value travel secrets.

Your first website should, of course, be The International Lesbian Gay Travel Association where under Blogs you will find travel blogs including my columns on Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Chicago, Paris, Detroit and other cities. Check out all the columns I’ve written at muckrack.com/bill-malcolm/articles.

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Another column is written by another writer on Meridia, Mexico.

More recently there is a piece from a writer for Edge Media Networks on seven museums to explore from home.

I interviewed IGLTA President John Tanzella recently. To ensure a reliable trip (and tour operator), Tanzella recommends buying travel insurance, paying with a credit card, using a vendor friendly to our community and more.

He notes that not everything is canceled including Prides. Palm Springs and Atlanta have theirs in the fall and are still on for now.
Where to go once travel resumes? He notes that Hungary, Slovenia, Brazil, South Africa, Columbia and Mexico City were emerging new travel destinations for the LGBTQ community.

I asked him about where your dollar goes the furthest. In addition to Canada (where your dollar is now worth $1.40) and Mexico, South Africa is a great value (at least once you are there). This is especially true if you stay at an African hotel, he said. He also noted Brazil is a very good bargain.

I also interviewed travel writer Joey Amato who maintains the LGBTQ travel website, PrideJourneys. His favorite city right now is Oklahoma City which has great food, a gayborhood (39th St.), a canal, white water rafting, wall climbing and more. “There is so much to do,” Amato said.

His next trip will be to Monterey, Calif. Check PrideJourneys.com for his reviews of cities near and far, as well as the Aspen Gay Ski Week.

Amato likes the smaller hotel chains like 21C (which typically develops a museum-themed hotel) and Kimpton. You can find his travel posts at PrideJourneys.com and photos of cities he has reviewed at JoeyAmato_33 on Instagram.

Finally, I asked my friends for tour operator recommendations. Richard in San Francisco says Rick Steve’s tours are great. He went on one in northern Italy.

Before I close out what may be a final column for a while, here are my value travel tips:

Best airline: Southwest. No bag fee. No ticket change fee.

Best legacy airline: Tie — Delta (love their new long haul economy premium service) and American (consistently good). (Sorry, United, but you charge for carry-on in your Basic Economy fares.)

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Best hotel chain: CHOICE Hotels. Especially the Comfort Inn brand. All you need at an affordable price.

Hotels to avoid: Any that charge “resort” or “amenity” fees. These sneaky fees for things like use of the hotel gym are disclosed at the end of booking or lumped in with taxes to make it appear the government requires the fee. Avoid all hotels that charge them and the following cities where all hotels charge them — New York City, Portland, Ore. (downtown hotels only), Las Vegas and Honolulu.

Hotels to avoid #2: Any that have a new 48-hour cancellation policy. My plans change all the time. What happened to cancel by 6 p.m. day of arrival? Marriott and Hilton are the worst offenders here.

Best idea: Buy a City Pass to see all the attractions at a fraction of the cost. In Chicago, you get your own line to enter the Field Museum and Shed Aquarium. They are a deal.

Best travel tip when you get there: Try local transit. It’s cheap, frequent and you mingle with the locals. Most cities have great service to the airport.

When to visit: October is great for Paris. Skip the crowds. Plus, the Louvre is free on Sunday during the winter. Ditto for San Francisco — the weather is actually better in the winter. April and May in Seattle are great as there are no cruise ships yet which cause the hotels to fill up and the rates to soar. In a word, off-season or shoulder-season are great.

Best time to travel: The period after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. It’s dead as the kids are in school and everyone is out shopping or going to holiday parties.

For other travel tips, reviews, and more, check out these LGBTQ websites:
TravelingIQ.com: Ivan Quintalla of NYC does a great travel blog.
TravelRight.today is Toronto-based Doug Wallace’s website.
NomadicBoys.com: A couple writes this blog which is recommended by Ivan.
So happy arm-chair-traveling until we meet again — which may be a while.

Bill Malcolm is America’s only LGBTQ syndicated value travel writer. He focuses on affordable trips using value hotels, public transit and going where the locals go. He is based in Indianapolis, Ind. He does this as a hobby. Find him on Facebook. His 2020 travels included Detroit, Puerto Vallarta, Washington, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus. Due to the pandemic, he is taking a break from travel writing.

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