NY Times Travel Show Highlights

NYT Travel Show

New York City is an amazing place that’s at the top of many travelers lists. It’s where the “American dream” has began for millions of people, including my father when he first immigrated from Greece in 1953. Just a four hour bus ride from Boston, Bell and I haven’t taken advantage of the close proximity to enjoy New York as much as we’d like since relocating to the northeast from Ireland in 2014. But for the second year in a row, the NY Times Travel Show has been a great excuse to visit. Here are some things we experienced and learned at the 2016 NY Times Travel Show:

Seth Kugel has been the New York Times travel section’s ‘Frugal Traveler’ columnist for 5 and 1/2 years. Particularly when we lived in Dublin and money was tight, we were frequent readers of his column for tips on saving money to travel. He was on a panel that also included NY Times travel writers Seth Sherwood and Lucas Peterson, who will be taking over for Seth Kugel after he steps down as writer of ‘The Frugal Traveler’ column next month.

Colombia is a Great Bang for Buck Destination

Seth Kugel believes that Colombia is possibly the best bang for buck country in South America. He says it’s fantastic for architecture, food, mountains and beaches- all at a great price. Our previous travels have taken us to Argentina and Uruguay, which we enjoyed. And we were ultimately inspired to visit Bogota, Colombia and Salento, in the coffee region of the Andes Mountains!

Alex and Seth Kugel the NYTs Frugal Traveler
With Seth Kugel, longtime writer of the NY Times Travel section’s ‘Frugal Traveler’ column.

Youngest Person to Visit Every Country in the World?

Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to have visited every country in the world, doing so at 32 years of age. His new goal is to be the first recorded person to ever visit every country in the world twice. Incredibly, he admits sports is his first passion over travel.

Obviously, Lee Abbamonte has experienced a wealth of amazing things on his world travels and is quite the thrill seeker. He said his favorite man-made site in the world is the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan. His least favorite countries have been Nigeria and Angola. In Nigeria, he said authorities tried to extort bribes from him and the ATM ripped him off three times in three days. “And it wasn’t that I tried to take out $100 and got $98, it was more like I tried to take out $100 and got $4!”

He said he was denied a tourist visa by Angolan authorities 5 times before finally receiving one. His belief is that the Angolan government didn’t really want tourists in the country. As they were too focused on the oil scam they have going with governments around the world, including the USA and EU.

Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world.
Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world, at 32 years old.

Budget Travel Tips

Matt Kepnes (Nomadic Matt) is probably the most famous travel blogger in the world and has authored several books including ‘Travel the World on $50 a Day.’ We’ve been reading Matt’s blog for years but this was the first time we saw him speak. Matt is an excellent resource on budget travel and constantly encourages people to see the world and broaden their horizons.

Nomadic Matt encouraged people to hitchhike. It’s a very common form of transit in countries like Iceland. It’s also safer than a lot of people think. He told his audience to research more about J. Edgar Hoover’s hatred of hippies and how the FBI began a propaganda campaign to discourage hitch hiking from becoming mainstream in the United States. One audience member became irate with Matt during the Q & A session saying “I can’t believe you’re encouraging women to hitchhike!”

Matt told his audience to save money by staying and eating with locals. Avoid fancy restaurants because “you can eat a fancy meal in any city in the world.” He also said ask locals “where do YOU eat?….rather than where should I eat?” He said that if you’re a budget conscious traveler, duck into a hostel to ask staff for a restaurant recommendation even if you’re not staying there. He also recommended asking cab or Uber drivers for tips, which we like to do as well.

Nomadic Matt encourages a packed audience to participate in the sharing economy to save on travel.
Nomadic Matt encouraged a packed audience to participate in the sharing economy to save on travel at the 2016 NY Times Travel Show.

Meeting Travel Channel TV Host Samantha Brown

I saw former long time Travel Channel TV host Samantha Brown sitting in a round table discussion and given I had a press badge myself decided to join in on the conversation. She was sitting with members of the US State department having a conversation about customs and immigration policy. Partly because of tightened border controls, US citizens holding a passport has jumped exponentially from just 3% in 1974 to 9% in 1989 to 38% of US citizens holding one today.

I decided to chime in with a few comments of my own regarding immigration and border control. When we traveled to the United Arab Emirates in 2013 we were greeted by a very slow-moving immigration line and realized it was moving so slow because the immigration officer, in his sleek white gown, was flirting with all the women. After asking me to step to the side, he told Bell “you have beautiful eyes.” One of the other baffling things I’ve found traveling abroad is the Australian customs form which had medications and firearms under the same category to check.

I was thrilled to get a couple laughs from Samantha Brown and US State Department staff. And Samantha Brown was as charming and friendly in person as she is on TV, posing wonderfully for this photo I requested from her. Her husband Kevin James O’Leary was also at the table and was the one who took the photo below.

With long time Travel Channel TV show host Samantha Brown.

As they say “divide and conquer,” so at times Bell and I split up and attended different sessions taking place simultaneously. Below is Bell’s recap of a couple great sessions she attended.

Professional Photography Tips

Ralph Velasco gave a great presentation on making the most of your travel photography. Neither Alex nor I keep a “shot list” and it had never occurred to me to do this. This is where you make a list ahead of your travels of key things that you want to capture in different categories to fully encapsulate your trip. After listening in on this session, I went outside with some different shots in mind and had fun trying to capture them in photogenic New York City! Ralph has a free app for iOS that has 52 categories to keep in mind when on the road.

Photo Travel
Photographer Ralph Velasco discusses the amount of gear to travel with.

Julia Dimon spoke about great travel tips and deals for 2016. She noted Australia and Canada due to their current favorable exchange rates for Americans. Julia also suggested some different websites for travel that are modeled within a sharing economy framework like Uber and Airbnb. The websites that peaked my interest the most were the meal sharing sites, for example, Eat With and TasteMade, which we hope to check out this year during our travels.

Great New York City Hotels

Hotel prices can vary wildly in New York City. During busy periods like summer and holidays, hotels are especially pricey. During off-peak times in winter, hotel prices are significantly cheaper. We visit NYC often and have stayed in a lot of different hotels. Here are some recommendations to suit all budgets. Consider booking a well reviewed hotel in advance that offers free cancellation!


The Plaza is an iconic 5 star hotel at the base of Central Park. Spacious rooms include iPads and are gilded with 24-carat gold plating. There’s an on site elegant Champagne Bar, the famous Rose Club and Guerlain Spa.

The Mark is located in New York’s upscale upper east side, a block from Central Park and a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spacious marble bathrooms feature a large soaking tub and mini flat-screen TV. Each room is decorated in ebony and sycamore furnishings.

Mid Range:

CitizenM is great for a comfortable stay with modern amenities, at a price that’s easier on the wallet. Rooms feature a centralized digital system that controls lighting, music and electronics. They have two locations: CitizenM New York Times Square and CitizenM New York Bowery.

W New York – Times Square is great if you want to stay in the heart of the city, in a modern hotel. A plasma TV, terry cloth bathrobes and Bliss bath amenities are included in all rooms. Rooms are equipped with a stocked mini-bar and light snacks.


The Pod Hotels are a good deal in New York City, though more so in winter. Pod 39, is a little better than Pod 51 because it’s newer and has a rooftop bar. The newest edition is Pod Times Square which just opened in January, 2018.

The Jane is a historic and fun budget option with a rooftop bar and adjoining club. Rooms can be small, but it’s hard to beat the price in NYC. Especially since they have a great location in Greenwich Village near the Hudson River and High Line.

Families and groups of friends can rent short term apartments. But you can no longer rent private apartments in Manhattan. There are still good private options in Brooklyn and Queens though. So you don’t have to be captive to hotel prices.

2016 NY Times Travel Show Exhibitor Award Winners:

  • Best in Show: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
  • Rookie of the Year: Go Touch Down Travel and Tours
  • Most Interactive: Destination Canada
  • Best 10′ x 10′ Booth: Flight 001
  • The People’s Choice: Mexico Tourism Board
  • Most Imaginative: Curaçao Tourist Board
  • Best Show Service: It’s Easy Passport Visa Services

Bell on the trade floor NYT travel show

2016 NY Times Travel Show

We were fortunate to attend the 2016 NY Times Travel Show with two other talented Boston bloggers, our friends Brianne Miers of A Traveling Life and Kristin Amico of 5 Things to Eat. Brianne chose a fantastic Airbnb rental that had a view of the Javits Center (home to the NY Times Travel Show) from the kitchen of the 14th floor of our apartment. You could also see the Empire State Building if you stuck your head out the window of the bedrooms onto 34th street in midtown Manhattan.

I joked that it was inspiring to brain storm travel ideas over coffee and bagels as we watched the flashing Javits Center jumbotron over breakfast. Speaking of bagels, it was great to have a foodie expert like Kristin to track down great bagels from Murray’s Bagels, cookies from Milk and Cookies Bakery and a plethora of great lunch options at Gotham West Market, just a 10 minute walk from the Javits Center.

With our friends 'A Traveling Life' and '5 Things to Eat.'
Our writer friends Kristin Amico of ‘5 Things to Eat’ and Brianne Miers of ‘A Traveling Life.’

Brianne Miers wrote a great post on Six Travel Trends to Watch in 2016, that recaps the session that longtime travel guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer presented.

The NY Times Travel Show was an event that anyone with a vested interest in travel could benefit from. It’s worth the price of admission for the public just for the expert sessions. There’s also over 500 trade show booths, featuring exhibitors from all over the world.

Travel Exhibitions Around the World

In addition to also attending the 2015 NY Times Travel Show, we’ve previously attended other big travel shows in the past, including the largest one held in the English language, the 2013 and 2014 editions of World Travel Market in London, the 2014 edition of FITUR in Madrid, the largest travel show held in Spain, and the 2015 Boston Globe Travel Show, all with press passes.

If you want to know more about these events, whether you’re a traveler, media or small business, get in touch! You may also be interested to read our article on how to make money off a travel blog!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

15 thoughts on “NY Times Travel Show Highlights

  1. Looks like a great opportunity to mingle with some successful people in the business. Lots of fun! Going to some of these conferences something we have to do more of going forward.
    Frank (bbqboy)
    PS. It’s “Colombia” 🙂

    1. It’s a great event and we definitely plan to return next year! Really hope to meet you two at the 2017 NY Times Travel Show or at another travel show somewhere else around the world.

      Thanks for the correction, good eye!

  2. What an interesting re-cap of a conference experience. Never been to a travel conference, partly because I thought it would be more about places pitching themselves. But it looks like you picked up some great insights about places to go, good and bad experiences, scams to avoid (the ATM scam gives me chills). Fun to connect with other bloggers too.

    1. Hi Philadelphia Traveling Mom! The trade show floor is about destinations pitching themselves but that offers you the opportunity to pitch yourself in terms of how you can help them promote their destination. You can approach booths and ask if their media contact is around to have a chat about a potential story idea you have and how they can possibly help you. They may not have a media contact around but sometimes they’ll pass along the contact’s details or tell you to come back later. It’s good to get your name on relevant PR lists!

  3. Nice post! I just attended the Travel Show in San Diego and wrote about it on my blog also. I especially enjoyed hearing all the great photography tips Ralph Velasco shared, and I thought Samantha Brown’s talk was inspirational. Her views about family travel really coincide with mine. It was nice to read your tips shared by people who didn’t present in San Diego. All very interesting stuff!

    1. Hi Tami! Thanks and very cool on your end as well. I just had a look at the page for the San Diego Travel Show http://travelshows.com/shows/san-diego/ It was quite the lineup of keynote speakers! I’ve seen Peter Greenburg and Patricia Shultz (author of 1,000 Places to See Before you Die) speak at previous events and they provide a lot of great tips in easy to understand nuggets of info. I missed Pauline Frommer speak but she also spoke at the 2016 NY Times Travel Show and I heard her talk was great. We admire family travel bloggers so great job traveling the world with your kids!

  4. Wow, the travel show sounds amazing to go to, and a great city to have it in! So cool you all have been to so many of these conferences, I really want to go to the World Travel Market in London! I’m looking to go to conferences on similar topics in the coming couple of years!

    1. Hi Kaylene. It’s great when the shows are in such great cities, but sometimes that can also be a bit of a distraction if you haven’t seen so much of a place, or there’s just so much to do in that city (like New York and London). It’s good to go to these events with at least a short rough draft game plan otherwise they can be a little overwhelming. I missed World Travel Market in 2015 but am planning to go this year. If you or anybody else wants any tips feel free to get in touch with me. We’re happy to try and help!

    1. Hi Mags! Yeah, I wasn’t sure whether to invite myself to Samantha Brown’s small roundtable discussion but since there was an open chair and I had a press badge, I figured why not just quietly take a seat. And it worked out good. I just sat and listened for awhile before adding some funny stories relevant to the conversation.

  5. Look like a great event! I began to realize while down in Patagonia that hitch-hiking is much more commonplace elsewhere in the world than it is in the United States, so while assessing the situation is important, I think Matt is correct!

    1. Hi Trevor! Thanks for sharing. We’ve never been to Patagonia but that’s good to know. When we lived in Europe we had a few friends who traveled around via hitchhiking and we heard mixed stories, but mostly positive. Hitch hiking can certainly provide great stories and companionship for some, along with saving money!

  6. Very excited to read as I went to the travel show in LA a few years ago and had a phenomenal time. Hearing Phil Keoghan from the Amazing Race speak as well as Mr. Frommer was fascinating, but getting to sit down with Samantha Brown and other members of the State Department is at a whole other level! Always love when travel and international relations collide, and what an great mix of people to engage in a discussion!

  7. Great recap of the Travel Show! Re: Nomadic Matt’s advice, I too have long asked locals where do THEY eat and it’s so far reaped very successful results. Also, same observation with immigration in the UAE. We landed in the middle of the night 2 months ago and there weren’t many passengers but the queue took SO long because the two officers were more busy chatting to each other than really talking or looking at the travellers entering. They were even tinkering with their phones casually, even though they could see that the line was sooo long (there were only 2 desks open).

    1. Thank you for sharing that story Jean! That’s really unfortunate to hear. The Emirati need to take immigration seriously if they want more repeat visitors and good press. They’ve invested so much in tourism so they really need to show respect and not waste the time of weary travelers waiting needlessly and/or harassing them. Travelers have lots of great choices in the world on where to travel! 🙂

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