It’s every vacationers dilemma: should you plan each stage of your trip, or improvise every step of the way? After all, you’re taking a vacation to escape scheduling and structure. Then again, winging it in an unfamiliar area can be both costly and dangerous.
We at Travelpro recommend combining the two approaches. Determine in advance what you want to see and do, but don’t schedule yourself so fully that you’re exhausted by the end of the trip or so rigidly that you’re unable to take advantage of the spontaneous opportunities every vacation brings.
By creating a loose itinerary, you’ll be able to shop for the best deals on the sites you want to see and activities you want to try. Packaged tours are often available that not only offer substantial discounts, but greater convenience since both the payment and logistics are taken care of in advance.
Obviously, you’re allowed a few side trips and “impulse buys” along the way. But, a little pre-planning can really stretch your travel dollar.
Packaged tours offer the traveler greater safety, as well. We’ve all heard horror stories of unwitting tourists being robbed or assaulted when they wandered into the wrong neighborhood or were lead astray by a con artist posing as a guide. It’s always best to research which areas to avoid in your destination, and to only deal with reputable, sanctioned vendors.
Another travel tip when developing your itinerary is to focus on the pace of your vacation. By all means, create a list of the things you want to do, but don’t assign a specific time and date to each activity (certain outings require exactness – a chartered fishing trip, for example – but not all). Flexibility and spontaneity are key to an enjoyable vacation, as is ample time devoted to pure relaxation.
So, be sure to plan your trip, but don’t over-plan it.
As Rick Steves, the noted European guidebook writer, television personality and travel blogger (available at www.ricksteves.com), says “Structure rewards the traveler with freedom, and ‘winging it’ becomes a ball-and-chain of too many decisions, too little information, and precious little time to relax.”
Photo: Carolyn Treadway (Flickr)
It’s the one question every air traveler asks: How can I get a cheaper flight?
Despite the explosion of travel planning websites, rewards programs and packaged tours, overwhelmed travelers often aren’t sure they’re getting the best deals on airfares. When in doubt, ask an expert.
Wendy Perrin is Condé Nast Traveler’s Consumer News Editor and author of “The Wendy Perrin Report,” a monthly travel advice column that appears at www.concierge.com. Wendy shared these cost reducing tips in “The Wendy Perrin Report” in September, 2007, but they’re still valuable today.
- How do you get the lowest airfare? We recently reviewed different travel planning tools, and ITASoftware.com was one of the ones we discussed. Wendy says this site is one of your best options, because it provides the “most comprehensive and least biased list” of prices and routes. From there, you can go to the airline’s website and book. Use WhichBudget.com or WeGoLo.com for foreign airlines.
- Stay up late to get mileage-award seats: When people reserve seats with their miles, they have to be ticketed by a certain date, or they expire at midnight on that date. Call the carrier at 12:01 in the local time zone where their US headquarters are located and see if they have seats available on your flight.
- Use a credit card that lets you collect the most miles: This is a long-term plan. Use a credit card that lets you get the most miles per dollar. For example, says Perrin, American Express gives you a mile per dollar, but the Starwood American Express gives you 1.25 miles. That’s because Starwood throws in an additional 5,000 miles for every 20,000 miles you redeem.
- Earn miles without flying: If you have to buy online, use the airline’s websites as a portal. Airlines like Continental and Delta link to the major online stores like Land’s End, Staples, and Barnes & Noble, where you can get as much as 10 miles per dollar. And use your Starwood AMEX to get an additional mile per dollar.
- Use code share flights on international flights: Code sharing is when a U.S. airline partners with a foreign airline, and they both sell seats on the same international flight. Sometimes, one of the airlines offers lower prices for the same seat, so check out both airlines. Use WhichBudget.com and ITASoftware.com to check this out.
- Avoid the larger airports: This is great if you’re flying to the same general area: For example, says Perrin, fly into Dublin rather than London for a layover. Aer Lingus has cheap flights, and there are plenty of low-cost airlines that fly from Dublin to the rest of Europe. If you’re flying around the US, fly into Midway instead of O’Hare in Chicago., or La Guardia instead of JFK in New York City.
You can reduce your airfare. All you have to do is invest a little time and effort, and follow the advice of an expert like Wendy Perrin.
As with most everything in this Information Age, there’s an endless amount of travel planning information available on the web. So what are some of the most helpful online travel resources?
Again, we turn to an expert, one of Travelpro’s must-read travel writers, Wendy Perrin. Wendy is Condé Nast Traveler’s Consumer News Editor and author of a monthly travel advice column that appears at www.concierge.com. Wendy shared some her favorite online travel planning tools in “The Perrin Report” posted in November, 2010, and we’ve selected a few of those.
AirfareWatchdog.com: These real life people find the low fares that the automated airfare sites may have missed. You get sales and promo-code fares that don’t turn up on the airline travel sites that scour the airlines. You can even sign up for your home airport or a particular city.
AwardWallet.com: Rather than keeping track of expiring miles and hotel points on the different sites, AwardWallet shows them all to you on a single page.
Bing.com/travel: Bing looks at saved pricing data about your ticket prices to predict if it’s going to rise or drop. It can tell you whether the hotel rate is comparable or higher than its historic rates for the same time period. This way you can figure out whether the price is a good one or if you should wait.
BookYourAward.com: You saved up all those travel miles and credit card points for first class or business class flights, especially for international flights, but you’re having a heck of a time getting the upgrades. BookYourAward can tell you the best way to get the upgrades for the fewest number of miles, and will even help you book your flight.
FareCompare.com: If you’re fare watching to figure out the best time to book your tickets, FareCompare has trip alerts that will tell you when the fares drop on your route. Request alerts for dates, cities, countries, and even airlines.
ITASoftware.com: If you’re planning a long flight with several stops, or a complicated route, or even a multi-destination trip, ITASoftware is an airfare search engine that gives a fairly comprehensive list of options. No airline preferences or concerns with commissions. Just find the route that gives you the best price, the best route, and convenient schedule.
Yapta.com: Another fare watcher, Yapta is great for planning a specific flight on a specific date more than four months in the future. When the price drops, Yapta sends you an email and lets you know when the time is right to buy.
Photo: Yapta.com screenshot
For Immediate Release:
Valentine Gift Giving from Travelpro, Atlantic Luggage and Austin House
-For Those Who Love to Travel-
(January 17, 2011), Boca Raton, FL – This Valentine’s Day will be a celebration of all things “travel” as Travelpro, Atlantic Luggage, and Austin House unveil their list of the “2011 Valentine’s Travel Gift Guide.” Their expansive and unique lines of luggage and travel accessories make a great gift for anyone’s list.
“The ‘2011 Valentine’s Travel Gift Guide’ offers shoppers a variety of luggage, business cases and travel accessories to choose from that fit their budget and will make a perfect gift for anyone special,” said Scott Applebee, Vice President of Marketing for the Travelpro® family of brands.
For the frequent business traveler, the Travelpro Crew™ 8 Checkpoint Friendly Computer Brief combines sophistication and functionality for the perfect gift. The Checkpoint Friendly Computer Brief reduces the hassles of security checkpoints, allowing travelers to simply unzip the back of the computer briefcase and pass the bag through the X-ray machine. There is no need to remove the computer.
Surprise your Valentine with the recently released Atlantic Ultra® Lite 22” Upright, a perfect gift constructed with an exceptionally lightweight honeycomb frame. Weighing just 6 1/2 pounds, the Atlantic Ultra Lite 22” Carry-On can be easily lifted into and out of cars and airplane overhead bins. Moreover, no need to spend the extra money to check-in luggage for a short business or leisure trip!
Austin House™, a leading brand of travel accessories, features multiple cost effective Valentine items that make unique and useful gifts for the frequent traveller this season. Accessories range from travel essentials to personal care items. Austin House’s Valentine’s Day gift guide includes the stunning, faux Croc collection, which includes an elegant, compact jewelry case, travel wallet and passport cover. This multi-compartment jewelry case gives you the ability to protect your rings, necklaces and even, bangles; the travel wallet has multiple interior dividers that can be used to separate currencies, docs and receipts; the compatible passport cover completes the collection. Another great gift option from Austin House is the Super Soft Blanket and pillow case, perfect for a quick snooze on your next road trip.
Show your son or daughter how much you care this Valentine’s Day with a stylish gift from the ECKO Unltd.® line of backpacks. Each backpack includes great features for student’s added comfort and ease, with padded carry handles and contoured, adjustable straps. Most models also include special pouches for phones and MP3 players with external headphone ports and a padded laptop computer compartment.
About Austin House™
Austin House™ started in 1974 to make travel as safe, comfortable and hassle-free as possible. Today, the strength of Austin House is its vast selection of travel essentials and clever ideas, including safety locks, travel clocks, luggage straps, luggage tags, passport and document holders, personal security, comfort and care items, leather goods, adapters and converters and electronics accessories. A one-stop shop for travel accessories, Austin House is the essential resource for the serious traveler.
Please visit Austin House at www.austinhouse.com for a full list of the latest products and retail locations.
About Atlantic® Brand Luggage
Since 1919, the Atlantic® brand has been synonymous with affordable, value-added and lightweight luggage. As a market leader in the lightweight luggage segment, including neatly designed uprights and spinners to trendy and smart garment bags and totes, all Atlantic branded luggage is of superior quality and durability. Whether for business or pleasure, travel is easier with Atlantic luggage, now part of the Travelpro family of brands.
Please visit Atlantic Luggage at www.atlanticluggage.com for a full list of the latest products and retail locations.
For over two decades, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travellers 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. The company offers a variety of innovative, high-quality luggage collections and computer briefs; each aimed at a specific user lifestyle and rigorously tested. Travelpro was the winner of the 2009 and 2010 Leading Edge Award from Executive Travel Magazine for “The Best Carry-on Case.”
Please visit Travelpro at www.travelpro.com for a full list of the latest products and retail locations.
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Mark Eveleigh is a photojournalist, adventure traveler, and book author, and a good one at that. He is one of Press Gazette’s 50 top travel journalists, because he truly visits all corners of the globe, showing us things we only hear about in magazines and read about in, well, Mark Eveleigh books.
To our mind, there’s no one better to field test the new rugged TPro® Bold collection from Travelpro than Mark Eveleigh. We handed him a couple TPro Bold bags and a Crew 8 backpack, and sent him to Latin America. He has already been to Chiapas, Mexico, to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and today is his video installment from the Amazon River. (He wrote about his Amazon River travels last month, but we now have his video from the trip.
With the seemingly endless amount of travel resources now available online, does it still make sense to book your trip with a travel agent? It often depends on the complexity of your trip.
If it’s just you and your spouse traveling to a familiar destination, the arrangements should be pretty straightforward and easily handled online. But, if your journey is to an unknown location, and involves coordinating the arrivals and departures of multiple people and the arranging of various outings and excursions, a full-service travel agent can be a Godsend.
In his article, “Why Use A Travel Agent,” Joseph A. Watters, President of Crystal Cruises, listed the important services travel agents provide their clients either free or for a nominal charge:
1. Distilling the product information: No one knows more about travel and trip planning than a travel agent. They’re up on the latest news, packages, and ways to save money.
2. Investigating and supplying competitive information: Airlines don’t share competing information, like prices, about each other. Travel agents have that information at their fingertips.
3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Since travel agents get all the information from industry-only emails, airline district managers, and other sources, they have the most up-to-date promotional information.
4. Analyzing the current promotions: Travel agents can also advise you on the best value over the best price. Remember, a cheap price is not always a bargain if you’re uncomfortable, have to pay extra costs, or get bumped.
5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions: A travel agent can tell you of any of the pitfalls you might not otherwise spot on a travel booking website.
6. Making recommendations for travel-related options: Since travel agents are always up on the latest news about the travel industry, including the destinations, they can give you ideas of how to pack, what to expect, places to shop and dine, and packages to try.
7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction: Rather than spending hours yourself looking for individual hotels, rental cars, flights, dining reservations, ask your travel agent to help you out. They can act as a personal concierge for organizing your itinerary, saving you the time you need to handle the rest of your life. And you can be sure they’re going to act in your best interest, not the destination locations’
8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: A travel agent, especially one who’s knowledgeable about your destination, can enhance the experience by putting you in touch with special packages and amenities that the average traveler isn’t going to hear about.
9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations: Travel agents have a little caché when it comes to their position, name, and buying power. Hotel owners, airline booking agents, and cruise organizers know that a big portion of their business comes from travel agents, and they’ll work to keep them happy — even to the point of getting perks and amenities that you couldn’t have gotten if you tried it yourself.
10. Getting problems resolved: Your travel agent will also, like a true concierge, handle any problems you have when something goes wrong. Get bumped from your flight? Call your travel agent to rebook. Need a different hotel or rental car? Rather than navigating everything yourself, place a call to your travel agent, and then wait for them to call you back with the information.
You’re going on vacation to escape planning, scheduling and hassles. Working with a travel agent helps you do just that, so let them handle your next trip for you.
Photo: MikeMcSharry (Flickr)
Of all the inconveniences associated with air travel, one of the worst is being squeezed sardine-like against your fellow passengers in an overcrowded coach cabin. If you resent having your “personal space” invaded, flying coach can be an ordeal.
But those spacious first class seats are too expensive for most of us. So, what’s a compressed, budget-conscious air traveler to do?
An effective approach is to request an exit row seat. While you may pay a little more (and will be expected to remove the escape door in the event of an emergency), you’ll enjoy significantly more arm and leg room.
A less obvious technique — if the exit row is already booked — is to request a seat in the row immediately behind it. Normally, exit row seats don’t recline, so you’re assured that the snoozing passenger directly in front of you won’t suddenly lean back into your lap.
You can also increase leg room by not storing anything under the seat in front of you. Simply pack your Travelpro® Rollaboard® properly, and place it in the overhead bin.
Another common approach is to request an aisle seat. While some travelers swear that window seats are roomier, most agree that having the aisle to one side gives you a greater sense of openness. On full flights, requesting a two-seat row instead of a three-seat row also lessens the number of bodies in close proximity.
If the flight isn’t full, you can always move to rows that aren’t full. Plus, you can choose planes with the fewest middle seats (for example, no middle seats are assigned on a 767 until it’s 87% full), or those flying at off-peak times (primarily midweek and midday), decreasing the likelihood of the plane being full. Use Orbitz’s Flexible Search tool to determine scheduled aircraft and flights booked at less than capacity.
Another option for making your coach class experience more enjoyable is comparing seat dimensions (on www.seatguru.com) and choosing flights with the roomiest seats. On domestic flights, coach seats vary from 16.5″ to 18″ in width, and 30″ to 36″ in pitch (total distance between rows). On international flights, the seat’s width ranges from 17″ to 20″ and pitch ranges from 31″ to 42″.
Finally, you should always select the best seat available when you book your flight. Then monitor seat maps online and, if a better choice comes up, change your seat assignment.
Flying coach class doesn’t have to be a claustrophobic nightmare. With a little planning, you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver.
Photo: knight725 (Flickr)
If you think air travel is tough, be thankful you’re not a checked bag. Granted, you have to navigate congested terminals and crowded airplanes. But, you don’t have to do so via conveyor systems, sorting stations, and rotating carousels.
Despite the fact that airline personnel do their best to make sure your bags arrive on time and intact, checked luggage endures a lot in transit. At the check-in counter, it’s tagged and placed on a conveyor belt. Needless to say, bags with loose straps, open flaps or other stray material run the risk of being caught in the belt and damaged.
Depending on the size of the airport, your luggage may be transported on conveyor systems over long distances. And, at each junction, they are scanned and re-routed by automated “pushers” to the appropriate conveyor within the network.
In smaller airports without extensive automated systems, time pressures can contribute to. . . more “vigorous” handling of your luggage. Baggage handlers are held accountable when loading delays cause late departures. In their haste to make sure that all luggage makes the flight, these handlers don’t always treat each bag with the tender loving care you do.
So, what’s a frequent traveler to do? Invest in durable, dependable Travelpro® luggage, of course.
All Travelpro products are manufactured with strong, lightweight honeycomb frames and durable fabrics that are coated for water resistance. Reinforced extension and carry handles along with sealed bearing wheels enhance durability. Plus, features like corner protectors, kick plates and back skid guards all add years to your bag’s service life.
A great way to avoid having checked bags damaged is to not check them in the first place. Travelpro offers many types and styles of lightweight carry-on models that meet airline size restrictions. This eliminates not only threat of luggage-eating carousels, but the cost of checking bags at departure and the headache of retrieving them upon arrival.
Throughout the development process, Travelpro’s design team focuses on both product durability and weight reduction. We recognize that any manufacturer can offer a bag that doesn’t weigh much. The challenge is to provide a lightweight bag that stands up to overworked baggage handlers and crowded conveyer systems worldwide.
Have we succeeded? Could we offer a lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects on our products if they weren’t extremely durable?
Photo: Ellenm1 (Flickr)
Airport security screenings have been getting a lot of negative publicity lately. This has lead the flying public to look for ways to make the process as painless as possible. Travelpro has several suggestions for doing just that.
First and foremost, be courteous to and cooperate with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel. These professionals are responsible for ensuring that terrorists don’t board a plane armed with items that could be used to destroy it.
Remember, your agent doesn’t enjoy full body scans and enhanced pat-downs any more than you do. These approaches have been proven effective in identifying hidden, lethal materials, and are now required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA.
Secondly, make sure you’re fully prepared for the security checkpoint process. According to the TSA’s website, certain clothing and accessories can set off metal detectors. Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry or other accessories that contain metal when traveling through the security checkpoints:
- Heavy jewelry (including pins, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, earrings, body piercings, cuff links, lanyards or bolo ties).
- Clothing with metal buttons, snaps or studs.
- Metal hair barrettes or other hair decoration.
- Metal belt buckles.
- Metal under-wire bras.
Hidden items such as body piercings may result in your being directed to additional screening for a pat-down inspection.
Take metal items such as keys, loose change, mobile phones, pagers, and personal data assistants (PDAs) out of your pockets. Place heavy jewelry and other metal items in your carry-on baggage or in plastic bags until you clear security.
Also, be sure to comply with the TSA’s “3-1-1” rule, which allows travelers to carry-on one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag containing 3.4 ounce (100 ml) bottles of the gels and liquids.
Finally clear your carry-on bag of excessive clutter. This lets Transportation Security Officers get a clean, X-ray image of its contents.
Enhanced airport security measures are here to stay. Being polite and prepared is the best way to deal with them.
Photo credit: Oddharmonic (Flickr, Creative Commons)