First Look at Amazon Travel’s New Hotel Contract

March 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s never a surprise to hear that Amazon is planning to do something new, but this may be a little unusual: the online bookseller company has now decided to venture into the hotel booking business.

We recently read a Skift.com article about details about the contract, which discusses how they’re compensating the hotels and what type of commissions Amazon will receive for the service.

English: Bungalow at The Hotel Amazon Bed & Br...

Bungalow at The Hotel Amazon Bed & Breakfast, Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We actually didn’t even know Amazon was getting into the travel business, but it makes sense that an online mega-player such as Amazon would jump into the lucrative hotel marketplace. The company has already dipped its toes into the hotel booking pool by offering severely discounted, last minute deals via Amazon Local, which is a service similar to Groupon, but less well known.

The new scheme will expand that market significantly and allow hotels to list full price rooms.

It’s hard to say how their prices will shake out in comparison to discount travel sites at this point and it will be fascinating to see how this foray will work out for them. We’re especially interested to see how they stack up against Expedia, which we consider to be the main powerhouse in the travel website space.

Since Expedia has just gobbled up Travelocity, Orbitz, and other travel websites, we’ve seen a trend toward consolidation. It will be interesting to see how Amazon’s entrance affects all of that. Although the older companies have a big head start, Amazon is known for introducing change into the marketplace just by being one of the biggest.

According to the Skift article, Amazon Local first began discussing the plan with hotels last September and is already testing out the scheme in limited marketplaces.

What do you think about Amazon’s entrance into the travel space? Would you book a hotel room through them? And have you ever heard of Amazon Local before? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page, and let us know if you’ll use Amazon for future travel.

Bring This, Not That: Art Supplies for Kids

March 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Do your kids drag their art supplies everywhere they go? Do you head over to Grandma’s house with backpacks overflowing with pencils, pens, markers, scissors, and different types of paper?

If so, you’re probably excited that they’re excited and that they’re doing something other than playing video games or looking at a screen. However, you may be less excited at the thought of dragging a mountain of art supplies with you on your next vacation.

2 woodless graphite pencils in plastic sheaths...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think about how much downtime your kids will actually have while on the vacation. If you’re flying to Disney World, their schedules are probably going to be jam packed. If you’re driving to Oklahoma, though, you may want to pack more extensively.

Think about how much storage space the supplies are going to take up and how much you actually have. Again, if you’re flying, space will be more limited as opposed to driving, where you and your kid may be able to spread out and bring everything but the kitchen sink.

In either case, keep in mind the fact that if you pack too much stuff, your kids are more apt to lose something. If you’re changing hotels or locations, things may get forgotten, so focusing on just a small amount of art supplies can be helpful. Keep an inventory of what they have so you can make sure that certain items don’t get left behind as you travel.

It’s also not a bad idea to invest in a “travel only” set of art supplies to use while in transit. And then have a few more things packed away in the luggage to use while at your destination.

When you’re on vacation, we at TravelPro always think it’s best to get the most bang for your buck as far as packing space goes. The best option may be to limit your kids to just a pad of paper and one set of pencils. Talk to your kids about nomadic art and the fact that some professional artists carry only a small notebook and a pencil to make sketches on the go.

What do you do when your budding artists want to take their entire studio with them? Do you have any go-to supplies or favorite items you have to take? Any tips for parents of new artists? Leave them in our comments or on our Facebook page.

Airlines Are Unlocking New Value In Their Frequent Flier Programs

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Reversing the direction of what we’ve seen recently in frequent flyer programs, Business Insider says that airlines are now finding value in their frequent flyer programs.

The recent trend has been for airlines to find ways to deny privileges to customers involved in frequent flyer programs (such as putting a stop to mileage runs). That trend probably isn’t going to change, but airlines are finding ways to monetize these programs in a way that, so far, doesn’t seem to be of much benefit to travelers themselves.

Multiple racks of servers

If you’re using Big Data, you need some Big Servers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting on board the Big Data bandwagon, airlines have started harvesting and selling the data they’ve gathered about their frequent flyers. They’re selling this data to a variety of sources; Business Insider lists credit card providers, rental car companies, and hotels.

This data is so valuable, Air Berlin recently sold a stake in its frequent flyer program for more than what the entire Air Berlin corporation was valued at.

“It’s extremely powerful data, especially as it tends to be slanted towards the premium segment,” said Marc Allsop, senior vice president and head of global business development at Aimia.

In other words, frequent flyers tend to be very desirable customers. Anyone who travels enough to rack up that many miles tends to have money to spare, even when the person’s travel is on the company’s dime.

Plus, the information being harvested isn’t just related to facts about the person. It can potentially include details about recent trips a particular person has taken.

How do you feel about your frequent flyer information being harvested and sold to a third party? Leave us a comment to let us know if that sounds just fine to you or if you’d prefer to go back to the days when your data was just between you and your airline.

Travelpro to Debut Dynamic New Luggage Collections at 2015 Travel Goods Association Show

February 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Travelpro, the original inventor of Rollaboard luggage and winner of the 2013 Travel Goods Association’s (TGA) New Product Innovation Award, will proudly introduce its latest luggage innovations at the 2015 TGA Show, which will take place in Las Vegas from March 10 – 12. Travelpro will introduce three new lines designed to delight frequent business and leisure travelers – the Platinum Magna 2 Collection, the Maxlite Hardside Collection and the TPro Bold 2.0 Collection.

Travelpro redefines luxury travel with the Platinum Magna 2 Collection. Handsomely crafted with premium fabrics and genuine leather accents, this ultra-durable 13-model collection is the pinnacle of fashion, smart functionality and design innovation. Backed by Travelpro’s “Worry-Free” Warranty, Platinum Magna 2 ensures a lifetime of satisfaction.

Maxlite Hardside Spinner Collection

Maxlite Hardside Spinner Collection

Platinum Magna 2 features self-aligning MagnaTrac spinner wheels that ensure the luggage rolls in a straight line, a patented Contour Grip with updated design accents and cushioned touch points, and the robust PowerScope extension handle system that minimizes wobble. The high density ballistic nylon fabric, available in black and olive green colorways, comes standard with DuraGuard coating for stain and abrasion protection. The roomy main compartment has tapered expansion of up to 2″ on select models, maximizing space and packing flexibility, while keeping the center of gravity low.

Flyers can travel light and travel right with Travelpro’s Maxlite Hardside Collection, an amazingly lightweight 4-piece series that features a strong 100% polycarbonate hard shell for premier protection plus the patented Contour Grip to ensure effortless maneuverability and superior comfort and control. Featuring 2″ of expansion capacity, a Business Plus model and a dual wheel spinner system, the versatile Maxlite collection is a breakthrough in lightweight durability, style and value. All models in the collection are available in black and grape shell colors.

Crash protection is provided by protective side feet, molded wheel housings and built-in skid guards. The telescoping handle adds length and strength with airline-grade aluminum handle system with stops at 38″ and an extra-tall 42.5″ to ensure a comfortable roll for users of different heights. Travelers can relax knowing this collection features ergonomic, high-tensile strength zipper pulls that fasten directly to the built-in TSA lock to secure luggage contents. The split construction design allows for easy packing of clothes and contents within two full compartments that create separation of belongings. An interior divider panel with accessory pockets and a built-in mesh pocket provide handy storage for electronics, power cables and more.

Tpro Bold 2 Group Photo

Tpro Bold 2 line of bags

The TPro Bold 2.0 Collection by Travelpro is a durable, lightweight and versatile 9-piece collection which is perfect for those with a sense of adventure. It is ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Loaded with extras, creature comforts and flexible packing options, this premier collection embodies Travelpro’s next generation of action luggage.

Made of rugged, high-density polyester fabric with a water-repellent coating for greater stain and abrasion resistance, this line features a comprehensive offering, including Rollaboard and Spinner models, a backpack, a soft duffel bag and two drop bottom rolling duffel bags. Multiple carry handles make the luggage easy to transport in and out of a car or airplane overhead bin. The drop bottom rolling duffel models include a zippered divider panel for two separate packing spaces or, if opened, one large main compartment. The backpack, 22″ Rollaboard and 21″ Spinner models provide a padded tablet pocket for protection and easy access during travel. An “intelligent” interior offers packing flexibility with a mesh pocket and wet pocket, ideal for toiletries or wet clothing, built into the lid.

Available in distinctive blue and purple fabric colors with black accents, the T-Pro Bold 2.0 Collection offers dual spinner wheel models that allow an effortless roll in any direction, an aircraft-grade aluminum telescoping handle system strong enough to support a tote or case, and protective wheel housings, skid guards and molded rubber corner guards for crash protection. Compression straps provide extra security, while a hidden back pocket allows quick access to keys, electronic cables, phones and more.

About Travelpro

For over 25 years, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travelers worldwide. Since transforming the ease of modern day travel with The Original Rollaboard wheeled luggage, Travelpro has been the brand of choice for flight crews and frequent travelers worldwide. Travelpro is dedicated to building a lifelong relationship with its customers by consistently understanding and exceeding their needs. Travelpro was honored to once again be voted as the “World’s Best Luggage” by Premier Traveler Magazine in 2014.

Please visit the Travelpro website for a full list of the latest products and retail locations. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @Travelprointl.

To Boost Safety, Cruise Lines Want to Be More Like Airlines

February 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

With a number of embarrassing, and very public, hits to cruise ship safety over the last several years, cruise lines are looking at the airline industry as a standard for safety. A recent article in Businessweek looked at how cruise lines are responding to three huge safety failures in 2012 and 2013, including the infamous grounding of a cruise ship in Italy in 2012 and two serious fires in 2013.

The cruise lines have realized that they need to focus on being safe by reducing crew errors and increasing safety protocols.

Since the 1980s, safety has been a high concern for airlines. They’ve pioneered many programs that cruise lines now hope to adapt for themselves. They have seen that crew error is the largest risk factor in any type of accident, so they’re working to reduce those first.

Carnival Liberty, Carnival Triumph and Carniva...

Carnival Liberty, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Glory (near to far) docked in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plan is to implement programs that make sure staff are following procedures. Such measures taken from the airline industry include a no-blame reporting structure where staff can report violations of protocol with no consequences.

Another way airlines have increased staff efficiency is to randomly send personnel out for an annual performance check of pilot performance in the cockpit. The cruise line is considering that as well.

Another airline safety protocol is to track data from the cockpit related to any deviation from standard procedure and finding out why it occurred. This could be an important protocol to increase cruise ship safety.

What do you think about cruise ship safety? Would you venture out into the high seas after these issues that have arisen over the past few years? Leave us a comment on the blog or our Facebook page to let us know what you think.

Use Your Smartphone As Your Hotel Key

February 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

For weary travelers, even the tiniest road block can seem exhausting and annoying. In an attempt to smooth things out for their guests, Starwood Hotels and Resorts now gives guests the option of skipping check-in and using their smartphones as their hotel keys. Hilton is also planning on rolling out a similar scheme later this year.

The phone as room key may be a bit more complicated than it sounds though. Starwood has only rolled out the feature in one hotel so far, with plans to include it in more hotels later this year. There’s a lot of technological behind-the-scenes work that goes into making this work, such as replacing the current locks with new ones, and making sure the steps are in place so guests don’t accidentally unlock their doors.

English: Windows Phone 7 powered LG Panther(GW...

English: Windows Phone 7 powered LG Panther(GW910), Prototype smartphone for developers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Plus, this only works with one phone per room, so if more than one guest is staying in the room, one of them gets to use their phone, the other(s) will use a normal room key.

In this case, hotels see many reasons to go the extra mile to make checking in easier. They’re hoping that getting guests comfortable with using their phones for hotel-related activities will ease the guests into using other hotel apps. Future wish-list items include allowing guests to order drinks while sitting poolside, book spa packages, and order expensive room service, all with a mobile app.

Of course, a lot of hotels have begun to roll out the ability to check in via your phone. You can get all the red tape out of the way while you’re in the cab, and then just pick up your old fashioned hotel key on your way to your room.

What are some things you would like to be able to do at a hotel with your smartphone? Leave a comment below and let us hear from you.

Important Travel Documents For Traveling With Kids

February 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling with your children isn’t like running down to the grocery store with them. Just like you need your own passport and other travel documents, you need to have certain documents with you when you travel with your kids.

The Huffington Post has an extensive and helpful list they suggest you carry with you when traveling internationally with your family.

Air Canada planeObviously, a passport isn’t going to be a necessity on domestic trips, but HuffPo suggests you bring physical copies of the following: your child’s birth certificate, a signed permission slip if there’s a parent who isn’t traveling with you, vaccination certifications, travel insurance, emergency contacts, telephone numbers for healthcare facilities at your destination, emergency first aid instructions, a list of your child’s allergies, and your full itinerary with contact information.

The list makes a lot of sense, although it may be a little too thorough. Be aware that carrying all that paper documentation can be a security risk. (Think about what happens if that information were stolen.) But you can keep a lot of it on a cloud-based app, such as Evernote or Google Drive, which you can download to your phone or tablet as needed.

On the other hand, what if your phone charger is damaged or you end up in a remote site with no service? With Evernote, you can download documents to your phone’s app, and then lock it with a security code. Otherwise, you could end up with a huge phone bill if you need to access another country’s wireless network to access the information.

Be sure to do your research before you travel and know what you need. You may not need everything on this list for some of the places you’re visiting, so it’s better to determine it in advance.

Photo credit: Caribb (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Worth It or a Waste? The Real Deal on Five Common Travel Upgrades

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Lifehacker got us chatting about which travel upgrades seem worth it to us, and which were a waste of money.

There were differing opinions on the Travelpro team about whether shelling out for extra space is worth the additional cost. Those of us who feel hemmed in on flights, especially those of us who are tall (I’m 6’5″) said they will pay extra, especially for longer trips. Those who are more frugal (or smaller) said they don’t see a big difference in comfort and recommend snagging an aisle seat since that can give you the illusion of more space. Another good way to increase the amount of space you feel like you have is to keep the under seat luggage to a minimum. It’s worth it if you need the room, but a waste if you’re smaller, or the trip is shorter than two hours.

English: Delhi Airport Lounge

Delhi Airport Lounge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We didn’t like the idea of paying for wifi, either at the airport or your hotel, especially if you’re on vacation. And even if you’re traveling for business, we suggest you trot down to a local coffee shop to get wifi while you sip a nice latte. Another option, which the article also mentions, is paying for a mobile hotspot so you have your own wifi wherever you go. And apparently, the new iPhone 6 includes this as a feature you don’t even have to pay extra for the bandwidth. (Another reason to upgrade sooner rather than later!) This one is a waste, unless you get the iPhone or other mobile hotspot.

A luxury we can get behind is the concept of club floors at hotels. These are special floors that serve meals, snacks, and drinks. You pay extra for the access but you do get pampered and you can eat there instead of going out. This feature adds about 20 to 30 percent to your bill, which is fine for those who don’t plan on eating out very often, making this worth it for the home bodies. It’s pleasant to be pampered, but foodies may not find it worthwhile. But if you’re going out more than staying in, or you prefer local eateries to chain food, this one is a waste.

A luxury the article doesn’t discuss is the option of paying for a day in the first class airport lounges. This typically costs about $50 for a day. It’s a great idea if you’re traveling for business or if you have a particularly long layover. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than the rest of the airport. Wifi is included and the staff make sure you know when your flight is getting ready to leave. This one is definitely worth it.

What are some of the worth it/waste upgrades you’ve found on your travels? Leave us a comment and let us know.

The Case of the Disappearing Amenities

February 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Most people take home a tiny bar of soap and some lotion when they leave a hotel. They may also have tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner tucked away in their luggage as they glide through the lobby and out the front doors. Perhaps a shower cap to boot.

Not a big deal, as it turns out. In fact, many hotels sort of expect, and even want you to take their small sample soaps.

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe מלון סופיטל שער הניצחון

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe מלון סופיטל שער הניצחון (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent study by Hilton Hotels showed that 73 percent of respondents were willing to admit they took home some swag from their last visit to a hotel.

People take these toiletries home and use them to stock their guest bathrooms. It does feel pretty fancy to select your own soap when staying the weekend with Auntie Margie. Others use the stuff themselves or even give it away as gifts. (Because nothing says love and friendship like a small bar of soap with a major hotel chain’s name on it.)

In fact, Hilton is using premier brands as an additional selling point for their hotels. A recent article in Premier Traveler Magazine’s website lists Neutrogena, Giovanni, Aroma Actives, Refinery, and Peter Thomas Roth as new additions to Hilton’s arsenal of body care products. These are some toiletry heavy hitters. Hilton, in fact, is glad to offer these miniature bottles of bliss as part of what they offer the weary (and upscale) traveler.

We understand the importance of quality toiletries in ensuring guests stay revitalized during — and after — their travels,” said Chris Naylor, vice president, brand operations for Hilton Worldwide. “The refresh of these bathroom products is part of our commitment to enhancing the overall travel experience, leaving our guests fresh and ready for their next adventure.”

The brands themselves also get buzz from being placed into the posh hotels.

Of course, it’s unlikely that someone will book into a hotel based solely on a love for Peter Thomas Roth, but these little details add up. And in the world of high end travel, encouraging your guests to steal soap can be a solid move.

Airplane Cabin Designed for Optimal Rollaboard Luggage Space

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on the PSFK.com website discusses the emergence of a way more convenient form of travel. The Embraer Air E2 jet seeks to maximize the room for your carry on luggage as well as make the flight itself more comfortable. There’s 40 percent more room for luggage onboard the plane, and you can actually fit an airline standard piece of luggage in the overhead bin, wheels first. Not having to obsess over the size of your suitcase would be a wonderful feeling.

Skywest Airlines Embraer EMB-120ER

Skywest Airlines Embraer EMB-120ER, a precursor to the new E2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plus, each traveler has a lot of personal space. Seats move around independently, and there’s enough room for it so no one will yell at you for leaning back or putting your knees in the back of their seat. The seats can even be staggered so you’re not directly next to the person in your row.

The designers tried to rethink the way flyers experience their trip, so the planes were designed to be more comfortable and personable. They wanted to give passengers a feeling of having their own territory during the flight.

The Embraer Air E2 jet is slated to come out in 2018. However, it may not be very likely that the weary American traveler will see one of these up close and personal. Embraer, a Brazilian company, serves the market for planes that seat up to 130. That’s definitely smaller than our large jets. And although it’s around the size of a commuter jet, it seems unlikely that the folks flying local routes between regional airports are going to spring for a high-end plane.

That said, SkyWest has apparently placed an order for 100 of them, so you may be one of the lucky few if you book a SkyWest flight in three years or so.

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