Five Apps to Keep you Entertained and Informed

July 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re busier than ever. While we used to have to DVR our shows and catch up with them later — and before that, we videotaped them or made sure to sit down when they actually aired! — mobile devices now give us the opportunity to not only be entertained but informed, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

We used to be held captive by the TV monitor at the airport gate area, now we can use some mobile apps to control the content we read, watch, or hear. While everyone knows about apps like Spotify, ESPN, and Netflix, we wanted to share some more unusual, lesser-known apps for your consideration as you’re on the go. You can use these while you’re in the car, on the plane, or just shuffling around your hotel room as you get ready for bed. And you can use them at home as well.

TuneIn Radio - One of the five best entertainment apps

TuneIn Radio

If you like listening to the radio, particularly to keep yourself updated about what’s going on in your hometown, TuneIn Radio allows you to hear your local commercial or NPR station from anywhere in the world. It will let you listen to any local radio station that also broadcasts on the Internet, as well as download podcasts and even listen to certain sporting events, like MLB, NFL, and even the World Cup.

The same is true for your local TV station and your local newspaper. An easy check in your app store will let you know if your local ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliate has an app where you can find local news. If your town’s newspaper doesn’t have its own app, you might be able to access it if it’s owned by Gannett Company. The publisher of USA Today also owns over 100 daily newspapers and over 1,000 weekly newspapers and offers this local content through its app. All these can provide you with a taste of home even when you’re away.

Six of our favorite entertainment apps for when you're on the road

Six apps to help you stay entertained and informed while you’re on the road.

If you want to stream content on your phone or tablet and protect yourself from being throttled by your data provider, you may want to look into VPN Unlimited. While not an app, this virtual private network service allows you to sign in and choose from a list of preselected servers in different countries. For example, you can access international content from these servers such as World Cup coverage in Iceland or the Olympics as they’re televised in Canada. For those who don’t have cable, this is one way to access premium sports coverage without paying. You’re just watching content provided by another country’s public access channels. Finally, if you’re traveling overseas and want to watch Netflix, you can’t, since Netflix doesn’t allow access to U.S content from outside the country. To work around that lockout, VPN Unlimited also has a dedicated Netflix server which allows you to watch your U.S.-based Netflix from anywhere in the world.

NPR One is the news junkie’s favorite app. Unlike the regular NPR app, which is sort of like a streamlined public radio-only version of TuneIn, the NPR One app lets you select the news, stories, and podcasts just for you. It’s like building your own NPR newscast. The regular NPR app is great for if you want to find your favorite classical, jazz, or eclectic music radio station (like KCRW’s Eclectic24 from Santa Monica, California), but I especially like NPR One for its focus on news and information.

What kinds of entertainment apps do you use to stay entertained and informed? How do you keep up with news from home or your favorite destination? Share them with us, the more esoteric the better! Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Used with permission)

Airlines Predict Fare Increases Due to Fuel Costs

July 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

While this summer is already trending to be the largest travel season ever — up 100,000 fliers per day over last year — travelers may find airline ticket prices going up due to a spike in fuel costs, even while seat availability decreases.

According to the International Air Transportation Association, the cost of gassing up is up 50 percent, with oil selling at $65 a barrel this summer compared to $45 for the same quantity in 2017.

Airline executives told attendees at IATA’s annual meeting they were still optimistic about their carriers’ profitability, since they’ve worked to restructure their businesses so they can absorb the increased cost that always seems to come around this time of year.

Delta Airline A330 airplaneWhile you might think a fuel surcharge may be tacked onto your ticket, there’s good news: the Department of Transportation has made such fees illegal on domestic flights five years ago because the DOT determined they were really just a hidden price increase. These surcharges are permitted on international flights, however, and flights to Asia have seen figures between $50 and $200 — almost 15 percent of the ticket price — tacked on.

Ticket prices to popular summer destinations, such as Europe, haven’t been severely impacted due to competition from the low-cost carriers, but flexible business class seats and fares to parts of the country where there’s less competition have begun to see hikes.

While this recent spike may seem large, airlines learned from the disastrous $140 per barrel season a decade ago. To avoid seeing profits plummet, they’ve implemented price hedging policies to protect their margins.

Bottom line, depending on where you’re heading, those fuel costs surcharges may be unavoidable. Just do your best to find the lowest-priced tickets you can and hope for the best. Also, buy your tickets earlier rather than later when surcharges could get bigger.

Do fuel surcharges affect your business travel plans? How do you deal with surprise fees? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Gietje (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Passport Expiration Dates Can Impact You More Than You Think

July 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

A little-known fact about international travel could snarl your plans or bring them to an abrupt halt if you don’t pay attention to it. Just like you read labels for expiration dates, you need to know your passport expiration date.

Turns out, many countries around the world, with the exception of the European nations, require passports to be valid for six months or more before your entry date. The restriction may apply to your date of entry or your planned date of departure. That is, if you’re flying home from Spain on December 31, your passport can’t expire after June 30.

Twenty-six European countries follow a lesser known law called the Schengen Agreement which allows you to enter their sovereignties, provided three months’ validity remains on your passport beyond your planned date of departure. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, no minimum validity is enforced.

Photo of a U.S. passport. Do you know your passport expiration date?The best way to know which countries have which rules is to check the U.S. Department of State’s website. It has a menu of country-by-country details.

Another thing to keep in mind when traveling with children is that their passports are only good for five years instead of 10. For one family, their son’s passport expiration date completely derailed a long-planned trip to Spain.

They were just two hours from departure when an American Airlines representative told them their son couldn’t board the plane because his passport was due to expire. Turns out a valid passport isn’t always a valid passport.

How can you keep this from happening to you? Follow these guidelines as you plan your next international excursion:

  • Check your destination country’s passport validation rules before you plan your itinerary. Do what you need to do if your passport will expire close to the country’s expiration date. Don’t try to slip through unnoticed, because they’re looking out for it.
  • Check every person’s passport expiration date before you book your flights. Remember that children’s passports expire every five years, so our best advice is to go ahead and apply for updated documents for any that will expire within the year you plan to go abroad.
  • Book your flights with points so you’ll have options. The family in the story above had purchased their flights with miles, so they were able to get their flights refunded. But if they had waited to get them refunded until after the flight had taken off, they would’ve forfeited them and the points. Ouch.

The family in question was able to rebook their flights and used points to put together a last-minute trip stateside. They learned their lesson, so let their experience be a cautionary tale.

Have you ever had passport issues when you travel? Any big problems or narrow-misses? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons/Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

5 Ways to Save Money on a Business Trip

July 3, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

You may not have a healthy travel budget for your business trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat fast food and stay at a cheap budget hotel in a dangerous neighborhood. We’ve compiled a list of tips for saving money that will still provide you with a pleasant, productive, and safe experience that will make you the hero with your finance department.

First, think outside the hotel box. We’re not suggesting you hit up friends for their spare bed or sleep at a hostel, but Airbnb might be a better option than the expensive conference hotel downtown because it can provide you some cost-saving amenities. Sometimes you can rent an entire house or apartment with Airbnb for the price of a luxury hotel in the heart of the business district. If you’re traveling with several colleagues, a multi-bedroom apartment or house might cut the accommodations line item down to a fraction of the cost of everyone having their own hotel room.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara California. This would be a nice place for a business trip.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

These properties often not only have spaces for lounging or working, most come equipped with a kitchen, which leads us to tip number 2. A kitchen will allow you to stock up on some grocery basics and eat in for breakfast and maybe even dinner a few nights. Conducting a business meeting at the property might also provide the right private atmosphere for a day of negotiations, and you could have food delivered and eat without wasting time going out.

If an Airbnb property isn’t an option, consider booking a suite at a hotel. The price of a suite might be $50 more per night, but by using the in-room mini fridge or small kitchenette with a two-burner stovetop, you’ll be ahead in the long run when you add up the savings to your food per diem because you dine in for breakfast and/or dinner. A home-cooked meal might not be as glamorous as a nice restaurant, but knowing you’ve saved time and money will allow you to relax and unwind after a long day. (And you can always spend your per diem dollars on other things, like a bottle of wine and a whole pint of ice cream.)

When you’re searching for airfares, be flexible with your departure and arrival dates. Compare the cost of flying in on a Saturday or flying home on a Sunday to regular Monday through Friday travel. Traveling outside the normal work week will often net you significant savings. Flying the red eye going home might be worth it if you can negotiate some comp time to sleep in. (But don’t sacrifice your health and well-being for the sake of saving a few dollars.)

Finally, see if there’s a way to avoid renting a car during your trip. Not only is car rental $50 a day or more, you’ll pay upwards of $30 or more every time you park, especially in big cities such as Chicago, Miami, and New York. Uber and Lyft might seem expensive, but they could end up being cost effective when you do the math — you could get to your conference and back for $40, as compared to car rental, day parking, and hotel overnight parking.

You might even find you can walk to a meeting or dinner with clients, which is a good way to get some exercise while you’re traveling.

How do you save money on a business trip? Where can you cut costs without sacrificing comfort? Leave us a comment or share your ideas on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Scott Cutler, an Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Travelers Paid Airlines $4.6 Billion to Check Bags

June 26, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you don’t know how to pack light, be prepared to pay for the privilege of checking the luggage you need to accommodate your clothes and other essentials. According to a recent CNBC story, travelers paid $4.6 billion in checked bag fees in 2017 alone.

In other words, if you wanted to take a large suitcase, or even check a smaller carry-on, it could cost you anywhere from $50 or $60 for your first bag, and $100 for a second.

But as travel and luggage professionals, we know that many of these checked bags are only necessary because people don’t know how to pack wisely. They make common rookie mistakes like:

Baggage claim, where people waste time if they check bags.

  • Packing one outfit for every single day. This is especially bulky if you’re going to be gone for more than five days. Solution: wear certain items more than once.
  • Packing things “just in case,” like a dressier outfit in case you go to a nice restaurant. Solution: Confirm your dinner plans before you leave to ensure whether you will or not.
  • Packing individual, complete outfits. Solution: Pack mix-and-match outfits. If you’re traveling for four days, take two pairs of pants that go with each of the four shirts.
  • Packing every comfort of home, like pillows or full bottles of shampoo. Solution: They have pillows at your destination. Also, buy your shampoo or other lotions, etc. when you arrive. I guarantee they don’t cost $100.

One way around the checked bag fee is to upgrade to an Economy Plus ticket, from the basic economy. Or use a credit card that gives you one free checked bag as one of your perks.

But the best way to ensure you never pay a checked bag fee again? Get a 21″ or 22” carry-on bag that will let you pack up to a week’s worth of outfits (as long as you pack correctly.)

When Travelpro’s sourcing and design teams travel to China for two-week trips, none of them check luggage. They can do so because they know that any of Travelpro’s suitcases will accommodate their needs, and they’ve perfected the art of traveling light. Travelpro specializes in making carry-on models that accommodate multiple days of clothing in one bag. The MaxLite® 5, Crew™ 11, and our brand-new Platinum® Elite collections are designed with features to help travelers pack efficiently and effectively,

regardless

the length of the trip.

You may not be headed out on the road for two weeks, but if your travel plans take you away from home for business or leisure this summer, scrutinize your clothing and luggage choices so you don’t waste money on unnecessary baggage fees.

How do you avoid baggage fees when you travel? What are your packing tips? Share them with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Unknown creator (Pxhere.com, Public Domain)

New Platinum® Elite Collection: Available Only at Travelpro.com

June 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Just because you’re not traveling first class doesn’t mean your clothes can’t. Upgrade your traveling experience when you purchase from the new Travelpro® Platinum® Elite Collection — available exclusively at Travelpro.com through the end of June.

This new 17-piece collection of soft-sided luggage features the PrecisionGlide™ System, which offers precise control and an effortless roll. Three patented features function as an integrated system — just the kind of thoughtful innovation you’ve come to expect from Travelpro.

Travelpro Platinum Elite Vintage Gray

Travelpro Platinum Elite Vintage Gray

The Contour Grip has cushioned touch points to help alleviate stress on your hand for greater comfort and control. The PowerScope Extension Handle, made with airline-grade aluminum, is lightweight, yet durable and adjusts to four set heights while minimizing wobble. The MagnaTrac® Dual Spinner Wheels are self-aligning, allowing them to roll straight in any direction for excellent maneuverability when you can’t afford to slow down.

The Platinum® Elite Collection features smooth-gliding Spinners and Rollaboard® suitcases, as well as garment bags and personal totes for overnight trips and weekend getaways. Constructed of superior, scuff- and scratch-resistant fabrics with leather accents in online-exclusive colors and all backed by the new Built-for-a-Lifetime Limited Worry-Free Warranty, you’re sure to find the perfect piece of luggage to elevate your travel experience.

The Platinum® Elite Collection warranty “guarantees the functional performance of each piece against defects in material and workmanship for the life of the bag”. Additionally, the new Trusted Companion Promise element offers additional coverage like reimbursement of shipping cost if the product needs to be shipped to an authorized repair center for repair and it also covers the cost of repair for damage caused by an airline or other common carrier as long as you register your bag within the first 120 days of purchase or gift receipt.

Travelpro Platinum Elite with Model

Travelpro Platinum Elite

Another design feature created to meet airline regulations is the integrated USB port, which includes a zippered exterior pocket to store your power bank while you charge and use your electronic devices. Your power bank can be removed quickly and easily from the bag’s exterior, allowing you to continue using it during the flight while your bag is stowed in the overhead bin.

From the grab and go, lightweight Platinum® Elite Regional Duffel with built-in strap, easy-access front and back slip pockets for essentials and a roomy interior that accommodates packing cubes, to the sleek, top-of-the-line 29″ Expandable Spinner with fold-out suiter, integrated accessory pockets, and interior tie-down system, this collection has everything you need to elevate your packing game to the highest level—the elite, one might say—with Platinum® Elite.

Are you interested in learning more about the new Platinum Elite collection? You can do so by visiting our website at Travelpro.com. You can also follow us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

TSA Launches Stricter Screening Guidelines

June 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Enhanced carry-on screening procedures that were tested at 10 U.S. airports during last summer’s peak travel season have now been implemented across the entire security system, which are adding some extra steps to the TSA security check process. The biggest change comes in how travelers must handle their personal electronic devices.

While it has been a requirement for years that laptops be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in a separate bin, now any personal electronic device larger than a cell phone must also be screened outside the bag. The list includes tablets, e-readers, and handheld gaming systems, while batteries for charging these devices have not yet made the list.

“By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers, and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

TSA Checkpoint - Road Warriors know to avoid this by being a part of TSA's Pre-CheckTravelers carrying food and powders through security may also be subject to removal so TSA officers may obtain clear x-ray images. The administration advises travelers to keep their bags uncluttered and organized in order to avoid being selected additional screening of specific items. Also, be aware that some of your items may just call for extra screening anyway, so add some extra time and don’t cut your flight time so close.

For example, carrying a stack of books in your bag may get you pulled aside for additional screening. I know of one person who was traveling with six of his books in his bag to sell at a speaking event, and they showed up as a dense mass on the TSA x-ray machine. So a TSA agent checked each book to ensure there weren’t any explosives inside the pages of the book. The whole process only took an additional 10 minutes, but that could have been a problem if his flight was boarding at that moment.

Individuals with TSA PreCheck are exempt from the new regulations, which is just one more reason to sign up for the security-skipping program.

Staples, the office supply chain, in partnership with security firm, IDEMIA, has announced it will make applying for the five-year priority screening available using 50 IdentoGo enrollment centers at stores in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle this summer. For $85, PreCheck-approved travelers can leave their shoes on and do not have to remove any liquids, electronic devices, belts, or jackets as they go through security.

What plans or contingencies do you have for these new TSA screening guidelines? Have you already experienced them? What did you think? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: NJTVNews (YouTube, Creative Commons)

What to Do if you Lose your ID Before a Flight

June 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve checked every pocket, looked in every drawer, retraced your steps over the last seven days, and the worst has happened: you lost your ID, and you’re flying back home in a few hours.

Before you have a meltdown in your hotel room or Uber and wail like Dorothy, “There’s no place like home!” there’s good news: You can still fly home, even if you’ve lost your identification. It won’t be as easy as clicking your heels together, but it can be done.

Check-in desk at Athens International Airport. Start here if you ever lose your ID.Let’s start with the basics. Get to the airport as early as possible, because this is going to take some time. Your first stop should be at your airline’s check-in counter to report the situation to a representative.

They have the power to grant you permission to proceed to your next step — security — provided you have other forms of identification — a credit card in your name, or even a digital copy of your birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport. This is why you should take photos of those documents and keep them in a secure place, like Evernote or Google Drive.

Even some other document that states your name and address, such as an electric bill or official correspondence, will work. Keep in mind that the airlines will not issue you a refund if you miss your flight because you have this problem, so you have to get there early.

Once the airline representative is satisfied you are who you say you are, you may think you’re over the rainbow. Sadly, you’re not. You still have to pass through security. Many people come and go so quickly here, but that will not be your experience. TSA will ask you the same questions again, so don’t treat them poorly — your clearance depends on their goodwill, so if you create a scene, you might not be getting on that plane. Go willingly with them to the separate room they’ll likely take you to, and be as polite and patient as possible.

After their additional screening is complete, you’ll be free to head to your gate and board your flight. If, however, this happens while you’re traveling abroad, your best first course of action is to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy to get the process underway to get replacement passports.

But if you want to expedite the process and save yourself some headaches later, here are two suggestions: 1) Have scans of your birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport stored in the cloud so you can access them with your phone in case this ever happens. 2) Storing hard copies of those documents in a secret spot in your suitcase is best if you’re traveling abroad.

With some luck, plenty of patience, not to mention politeness, you’ll be at your final destination in no time, with a great story to tell, and hopefully a short delay on getting a replacement ID.

Have you ever lost your ID before a flight? How did you manage? Any suggestions on how to navigate the process? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Chain Hotels vs B&Bs vs Airbnb

June 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When considering your lodging accommodation options, what’s most important to you? Do you want a standard cookie cutter room that will be the same(ish) wherever you go? Or do you want to experience something new and unique each time you travel?

If you’ve only ever stayed in hotels, why? If you’re a fan of Airbnb or independent bed and breakfast operations, what appeals to you about them? Or if you love to stay in cozy little B&Bs, what draws you to them?

These are some good questions to ask yourself as you think through your itinerary each trip. There are some good reasons to stay at any of these three options, and a few downsides as well.

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OHHotels provide a consistent experience, they’re located close to major attractions or downtown business districts, and you can count on them being clean and maintained for you during your stay. You’re also rewarded with loyalty points and other benefits like upgrades for frequent stays.

Of course, if you’re looking for an individual, unique experience, hotels won’t give that to you. They’re there for convenience and/or price. It’s a place to sleep, or to be pampered if you’re staying at a luxury vacation hotel, but you’re still just one of hundreds of guests.

If you want to investigate a specific part of a city, live like the locals, have more room to relax, and cook some of your own meals, Airbnb offers many options.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara California; they have a new tool for business travelers.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

Typically, you have a more personal experience, possibly interacting with the owner of the property who may also live nearby. You’re often nestled in a residential neighborhood, and you can discover local finds that are off the beaten path from the heavily frequented tourist areas. You can also save money on your trip by eating in. In order to compete with chain hotels, Airbnb is now rewarding loyalty as well.

On the downside, you don’t always get as much privacy, as some Airbnb rooms are just a bedroom in someone’s house or apartment. That’s fine if you’re going to be out for most of the day, and if you don’t mind bunking with a stranger, but some people don’t like the idea. (If that’s you, keep in mind that you can specify a private house or private apartment on the website; you won’t be surprised with a roommate when you book your Airbnb.)

Long before Airbnb, independent bed and breakfasts provided a similar experience for travelers seeking something unique.

When you book your stay at a bed and breakfast, you may have all the benefits of a hotel—clean, maintained rooms—but you also get the chance to interact with a smaller group of guests and the owner/operator, who may be cooking your meals and can provide expert knowledge about the area’s sites and history. In fact, if you love history, a B&B may be your best bet, as many of them are originally historic homes that have been converted into a place to visit and relax.

But on the downside, it’s like staying in a small hotel. You may have your own bathroom or you may end up sharing one with other guests. If you need your privacy and space, be sure to check out the B&B’s website and room type before you commit.

What’s your lodging preference when you travel? What makes it your favorite? What option do you like the least? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Scott Cutler, an Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Things to Do When Your Flight Gets Canceled

June 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Weather these days is getting more and more unpredictable. Winter brings heavy blizzards and ice in the Midwest and Northeast, spring brings thunderstorms and tornadoes, and it’s hurricane season in the Southeast from June through November. So chances are, you’re going to see flights get canceled or postponed because of the weather.

If that happens, there are several ways to make the most of the situation. If your rescheduled flight is for later in the day, you can stay in the terminal and tackle your inbox or other necessary reading. You could purchase a day pass to an airport lounge and have a quiet environment complete with food and drinks in which to wait it out.

Check the departure board when your flight gets canceledBut if you’re looking at an 10 – 12 hour wait, or even an overnight delay, you can go home or to your hotel and try again the next day. This too allows you to get some rest, investigate other options, or do what work you can while in the “holding pattern.”

If you’re stranded away from home and you’ve already checked out of your hotel, be sure to use your rewards app for your favorite hotel chain to check availability. Your status may help you beat out others trying to secure a reservation for the night. (Another option: search Google Maps for a nearby hotel and call them directly. Avoid calling the hotel’s 800 number; they’re not as plugged into the individual hotel’s reservations as the local people.)

Work with a travel agent. A recent Nor’easter almost wrecked one family’s Disney vacation, but having booked their travel with an experienced agent, having followed her tiny piece of advice — purchasing seats instead of relying on the airline to assign them — assured them seats on an oversold flight many were unwilling to risk rescheduling due to the impending snowstorm. Because of their agent’s knowledge of the system and counsel, they made one of the last flights out and were able to maintain their desired itinerary.

The family’s story shows a good reason for buying travel insurance. Sometimes you can’t settle for being rescheduled by the airline because other portions of your itinerary hinge on your making a flight. If you have travel insurance and your flight is canceled or your destination is closed for weather, you won’t be out that money — it will be repaid through your insurance, and you can reschedule at a later time for another flight or trip.

Finally, investigate alternate transportation. If you absolutely must get somewhere and the airport is shut down, consider renting a car (if roads are passable) or taking a bus to your destination. Again, using a car rental app when searching for a rental car may get you keys when others waiting at the counter may be out of luck.

What do you do when your flight is canceled? Have you ever had to face that? How did you manage? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bryan Alexander (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Next Page »