Planes Filled to Peak Capacity to Keep Up With Demand

November 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember when it was common to be seated in a airplane row with multiple empty seats you could stretch out on? It seems those days are gone. It’s now more likely you’ll hear flight attendants say, “Today’s flight is completely full, so please store small items under the seat in front of you.”

That’s more than a feeling. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics says 2013 was a record year for flying, with 83.1 percent of all seats filled — the highest rate ever. Although it may seem annoying to the weary traveler to face seats filled completely around you, the fact of the matter is that the more seats an airline fills, the more efficiently it’s operating.

English: inflight service by a stewardess

Inflight service by a flight attendant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think of an airline like a rental truck you rented to move your furniture to a new house. Is it better to fill your truck up and make one trip or fill it halfway and make multiple trips? Which costs more? Which saves you more time and money?

The answer is pretty obvious.

Airlines want to fill up every flight so they’re fully utilizing their capacity and generating the greatest profit for the lowest cost per passenger. Every single flight carries fixed costs like gas, the pilots, and the flight attendants, among many other costs. That’s true whether you’re carrying one passenger or 400. But if you can carry 400, your cost per passenger drops significantly.

In 2013, although there were more travelers than ever, there were also fewer flights. More people are flying for business and for pleasure than ever before, but airlines are reducing the number of flights to ensure they’re as full as possible.

What seems inconvenient is actually greater efficiency on the part of airlines compared to how they used to operate in the past. And while we may not care so much about the airline’s bottom line, it’s nice to know the airline is more likely to stay in business, so we can get to where we need to go the next time we need a flight.

While it may be a pain and make us uncomfortable, this is going to be business as usual for the airline industry for the foreseeable future. So it’s important that we adapt and find new ways to be comfortable and enjoy the flight.

Air Travel and Kids Don’t Always Mix

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Families flying with kids are having a tougher time of it than ever before. Incidents and news stories where families with children are treated poorly by an airline as a whole or by a particular airline employee are common. For example, kids or parents may be scolded, or even removed from a flight if a child behaves badly. These days, families may have a hard time getting seats together, and tickets for unaccompanied minors may be canceled without warning.

It may seem like families are being singled out as unwelcome travelers, but the fact is that flying in today’s world is simply not as comfortable as it used to be. Flights are fuller, services once taken for granted cost extra, and everyone seems to be a little crankier.

Child on AirplaneAirlines are placed in a difficult situation. Kids can sometimes involve more work for staff, and they’re unlikely to buy expensive meals or seat upgrades. A traveling child is usually looking to sit in the middle seat next to adults in his or her family and eat snacks provided by the parents.

A child traveling alone can require extra attention from staff as well as there is a very real fear that the child could get lost during a layover or even after the flight. Many airlines no longer accept unaccompanied minors (usually kids between ages 5 to 11), even if the parent is willing to pay extra for the service.

So how can airlines and parents work together to make traveling pleasant for everyone?

One idea we discussed (and later discovered) was a “flight nanny.” This person would be a designated travel concierge and guardian for a minor child, or children. The flight nanny will, for a fee, take on care, entertainment, and feeding of on-flight children, accompanying them from one airport to their final destination.

There is one service like this already, called Nanny In The Clouds, which matches traveling parents with nannies already traveling on a flight. They’re able to negotiate a rate (usually $10 – $20 per hour), and the nanny will help take charge of the children, keeping them in check for the flight.

We also suggest the idea as an option for people who want to send their children as unaccompanied minors on a flight. It would mean checking the person’s credentials, interviewing them, and making sure he or she arrives safely and puts your children directly into the caregiver’s hands.

If parents can find a way to help their children behave properly on a flight, or even be able to travel at all to visit family, it makes life easier for the parents, and helps the passengers around them feel more comfortable.

 
Photo credit: Tzusuhn Hsu

A New Website For Boomers And Other Older Travelers

November 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

AARP, the powerhouse organization that unites people over 50 by giving them a distinct voice and many life discounts, has recently launched a travel website.

AARP Travel features a search engine powered by Expedia, and offers the usual features, such as the ability to search for a good deal on tickets, hotel, and rental car in any given destination. You can also use it to search for the best deals on cruises. One thing that sets the AARP search engine apart from other sites, including Expedia itself, is the ability to access AARP member discounts.

AARP Travel Center logoAARP Travel also aims to help travelers research and plan for a trip before they deciding on a destination. For instance, articles feature information on best cities to visit, fall foliage trips, and wineries not in California. The articles are specifically geared at the traveler over 50. The site also hosts travel tips from “AARP Travel Ambassador” Samantha Brown who periodically posts articles with words of wisdom on travel-related concerns.

Another feature at AARP Travel is the Trip Finder, which takes you through a five step questionnaire about the types of things you like to do on vacation, types of scenery you’re looking for, how long you want to stay, when you want to go, and who you want to go with. The result is a specific recommendation such as “We think you’d love Taos, NM.” It includes a summary of what’s great about the selected spot, links to more info, and other places you also might enjoy.

The site also offers interactive maps of particular destinations, so you can easily see restaurants, attractions, and other great information about your locale of choice.

These are all nice features, but the site is not breaking a lot of new ground. The benefit is that it’s all pulled together into one place and presented by a trusted, hopefully unbiased, source that is geared toward helping out folks of “a certain age.”

Bring This, Not That: Comforts of Home

November 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you’ll spend time thinking about what to pack before you head out. Sure, you need your toothbrush and clean clothes, but do you need your pillow, favorite blanket, or other items that make you feel comfortable and remind you of home?

Our opinion is “it depends.”

If you’re driving and there’s room in the car, take anything that will fit. Just make sure you don’t leave your precious items behind when you return home.

English: All the comforts of home... This was ...

English: All the comforts of home…  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But if you’re flying, space is at a premium. You’re going to be packed into a plane with hundreds of other travelers and you may be lugging carry-ons around the airport between flights. And these days, most folks prefer to travel light to avoid paying the hefty fees associated with extra baggage. Plus, you may be carting gifts back and forth, which will already eat into any extra luggage space.

One of the great reasons for taking a vacation is to get a break from your routine, and to have new experiences. Can you really get that if you take your whole house with you?

In general, no. But if you’ll be staying somewhere for a longer period, like spending several weeks somewhere warm over the winter, you may want to cart a few extras along. Here are a few options to help you save space and energy trying to wrestle everything to and from home.

  • Consider shipping things so you don’t have to carry them with you. This is especially true of light-but-bulky items like pillows.
  • Pack a giant bag, check it, and pay the overage fees so you don’t have to deal with carry-ons. Sure it’s expensive, but you’re not going to get your favorite quilt into your small rollaboard.
  • Buy a carbon copy of the item once you get to your destination. If this is a yearly routine, maybe your relatives will hold onto that comfy blanket. If it’s your second home, it’s easier to have extras. And if you’re just on a long vacation and don’t plan on returning, donate the item to charity before you head back home.

Do you take your comforts of home with you? How do you manage it all, or manage going without? Leave a comment on the blog or our Facebook page.

Flying with Your Child

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As airlines continue to find new profit streams, more and more fees are being levied on every aspect of air travel, especially as it relates to convenience and comfort. Included in that list of conveniences is automatically receiving adjacent seat assignments when buying more than one ticket.

This can create nightmare scenarios if you’re not prepared. For example, two parents flying with a three year old and seven year old could face the possibility of everybody being seated separately.

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR t...

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi BKK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why parents need to plan ahead when buying tickets. The best thing to do when flying with children is buy tickets well in advance, after making sure your chosen airline has a system in place to reserve seats at time of purchase. If you buy far enough ahead, the chance of snagging adjacent seats is high. The chance that doing so will be free is not as high. Many airlines now charge extra for premium seats, including aisle and window seats. Or, you can fly Southwest, which doesn’t have reserved seats, but offers priority seating for travelers with children under four.

But everything doesn’t always go according to plan. Travel is sometimes last minute. And some parents have strict budgets in place. Should you not be able to reserve adjacent seats at the time of purchase, see if you can work with the airline to get seats with your kids. Call after you buy your tickets or arrive early on the day of the flight.

Even after all this effort, you may still find yourself on a flight with your kids in a different aisle. Many people will take pity on your plight and trade readily to keep your family together. But don’t assume the stranger sitting next to your kids is in the mood to trade seats, especially if he or she paid a premium to sit in the spot. Be prepared for a round of airplane “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Put your game face on and find someone else to trade with you. Or go prepared with a treat bag or gift cards to bribe the other person. Even if the person traded without blinking an eye, giving them a hearty thank you and a Starbucks gift card can make them feel better about helping you out.

How do you travel with your children? Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to solve the problem? Leave us a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Prepared Dishes

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Food and the holidays are like salt and pepper. They go together naturally.

If your family expects you to make a blueberry pie every Thanksgiving, you probably want to oblige. But should you bake it at home and take it with you, or make it once you get there? It’s an easy question if you live in the same city, but what if you have to travel a long distance for the holidays?

Cranberry sauce & Gravy

Cranberry sauce & Gravy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re traveling by car, you can make everything ahead of time and put it into a carrying case or cooler. But if you’re flying, you may not want to cart a pie through airport security. Even though TSA’s website says “we’ve seen just about everything,” they also warn that a carry-on pie may be subject to additional screening.

In other words, make the food when you get there.

The TSA has a list of items you can’t carry onto the plane, including cranberry sauce, gravy, and soup. You could carry them on as long as they measured under 3.4 ounces, but that won’t put much food on the table.

You could always check-in the food items in question, but the containers could easily break during the baggage handling process of your flight. Cans or bottles could explode from the pressure, or a glass bottle could break from rough handling from a baggage handler, or when it lands onto the baggage claim carousel from the chute.

If you cook with special ingredients or have food allergies or dietary concerns that force you to eat carefully, weigh the pros and cons of packing or carrying these items. Usually your best bet is to buy the food items when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, it’s always possible you may be heading somewhere without many options, like a small town in the Midwest. In that case, consider ordering from a specialty food store or even Amazon. Or you could just box the items up and ship them yourself. Either way, your favorite foods and ingredients will be waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

Have you ever shipped, carried, or checked food items for the holidays? How did you do it? Would you do it again or have you found a new method? Leave a comment or let us hear from you on our Facebook page.

Hotels with Women-Only Floors

November 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

More women are traveling for business than ever before these days. With this increase comes a new form of travel marketing: some high-end hotels are offering floors dedicated only to women.

The Naumi Hotel in Singapore offers women-only floors to its female travelers.

The Naumi Hotel in Singapore offers women-only floors to its female travelers.

Some of these “no men allowed” floors even go so far as to having female staff and a female concierge serve that floor. For some hotels around the world, it’s a question of safety. For others, it’s a marketing tactic geared toward attracting more women. Some of these gender-specific features include:

  • A focus on creature comforts that are actually sized for women, such as smaller robes, slippers, hangers, and other petite items.
  • Luxury items that are seen as more appealing for women, such as yoga mats, silk clothes hangers, and white wine in the room.
  • Decor that may appeal more to women, such as floral wallpapers and so on.

It sounds great, although we recognize that some people may see these single-sex floors as sexist. A recent court ruling in Denmark stated that a hotel’s women-only floor was discriminatory and the hotel was forced to open its rooms to men as well. In other countries, the women-only floors have remained open for business. Similarly, a hotel in Calgary has offered up a men-only floor to complement its women-only offering.

Perhaps the main beneficiary of women-only floors is the hotel industry. These rooms generally come with a hefty price tag for all the extra amenities and security. And whether these floors are successful will, in all likelihood, be determined more by the bottom line than the courtroom. Hotels are driven by profit which means filling rooms. If these gender specific floors can’t stay filled, we can’t imagine they’ll be kept around.

What do you think? Would you stay on a gender-specific floor? Would it be worth the extra cost? Leave a comment on our blog or Facebook page.

For Luxury Travel, It’s The Little Things

October 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Flying first class, dining out eating five course meals, extravagant hotels with Jacuzzis and HD TVs. These are all luxurious things that can be enjoyed when traveling, but that’s not always what makes luxury travel. Sometimes it’s the small details that can really make the experience.

Patrick Janelle, creative director of Spring Street Social Society, believes a cup of hot coffee in a unique café is the best way to begin a journey in a new city. He says it’s the little details, like restaurant menus delivered to his room, or a comfortable bed, that make him feel special.

English: Sofitel Macau - Hotel Lobby

English: Sofitel Macau – Hotel Lobby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently stayed at the Kimpton Hotel in downtown Miami, where I was greeted by a kind and enthusiastic desk clerk. Once I had checked in, I was surprised when she stepped out from behind the counter to direct me toward the elevator to get to my room. Those small steps made the experience more personable and welcoming, and will make me remember my stay there.

Some other little luxuries Janelle and I both agree on are room size, comfortable beds, and features like marble in the bathroom. The view can be luxurious as well. It sometimes pays to spend a little more get a nice hotel because they will have better views. They are also usually more centrally located as well, which makes it easier to travel around a city. Oftentimes, the extra cost can be justified over the cost of a less expensive hotel 10 miles from the city center, because now you’re not paying taxi fares or parking fees.

Other times, the ease of travel can be the most luxurious aspect. Getting bumped to first class or not having to wait at the carousel are also great. It might even be having the right luggage. At the risk of tooting our own horn, the MagnaTrac magnetic wheel technology makes for maneuvering through crowds a hassle of the past and one of those little luxuries we enjoy whenever we travel ourselves. Sometimes, it’s just the ease of pushing a bag through the airport with no effort that starts a trip off right.

What about you? What are your little luxuries and pleasures when you travel? What do you look for? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Best Apps to Prevent Travel Mishaps

October 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Apps are abundant in every category including travel. We thought we knew all the travel apps, but alas there are some NEW travel apps with a lot of great features including offline access and family emergency notifications. USAToday showcased some of the best travel apps to prevent mishaps or to notify when mishaps will or have occurred. Best of all, a lot of them are free.

BSafe ensures your personal safety by helping you set up a network of close family or friends to be notified in case of an emergency. The app allows you to set up times to be at certain locations. If you’re not at your specified location at the specified time, a notice will be sent out to your network. You can even set up fake incoming calls. Who hasn’t pretended to talk on the phone to avoid a situation (or at least wanted to)?

TripAdvisor on an iPhoneSmart Traveler, developed by the U.S. Department of State, is useful when traveling abroad. The app allows for you to check official country information including embassy locations.

TripAdvisor has developed an offline mobile app that allows you to download city guide information that you can access even if you don’t have wifi or a cell signal. When I went to Florence, this app would have been very useful as we kept getting lost, no matter what directions people gave us.

We really like the app the American Red Cross has developed for severe emergencies such as hurricanes or other natural disasters. Though we hope you never have to use it, it doesn’t hurt to have the information on hand. Similarly, the Red Cross also has a first aid app that gives you step-by-step instructions for medical care if you or a companion become injured on a trip.

These apps are very helpful, both in dealing with personal mishaps as well as larger emergencies. If you’re traveling soon, and want the peace of mind, download them, play with them, and get very familiar with them, so you’re not figuring everything out when you absolutely need it.

3 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Extreme edition

October 23, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

For the last few blog posts, we’ve looked at different travel scams and petty crimes from Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams. We’ve talked about scams, pickpockets, and even identity theft. But we’ve saved the most outrageous scams for last. Scam artists will go to almost any length to get your money, so be on the look out for these.

1. Thrown Baby

Using pretend children is a low blow, but it happens. A woman will throw a baby, which is usually a doll so that you catch it. The woman and her accomplices will rummage through your pockets taking all they can find while you try to save the “baby.”

2. Expensive Taxi Driver

English: A checker taxi cab. Deutsch: Ein Chec...

English: A checker taxi cab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t know where you’re going, taxi drivers may take more twists and turns than necessary to get you to your location in order to make your bill higher. I have had this happen to me. When I questioned their route they said they wanted to “avoid traffic.” Make sure you’re only taking licensed cabs from official taxi stands, and if possible, double-check your route on your smartphone.

3. Windshield Washers Scam

We actually see this more in the United States than in foreign countries. A homeless person, or seemingly homeless, will run up to your car at a stoplight and start washing your windows, hoping for a tip. If you don’t do it, they’ll yell and raise a fuss, hoping to embarrass you into paying them to stop.

We don’t want you to be afraid of traveling. Rather, we want to make sure you travel smart. So please look over these possible scams, and when you travel, move confidently, say no politely, and continue moving. Avoid the situations where you might be scammed and you’ll finish your vacation with everything — hopefully — still on budget and on schedule.

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