The Ultimate Easy Trip Guide for the Disorganized Traveler

June 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Yahoo Travel doles out some life changing tips for the traveler who has a hard time keeping things together in order to make a plan. We all know those folks — they’re the artists, the right-brainers, the free spirits.

The disorganized.

How do they get any work done?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working at traveling may seem like too much for them. They’re more of the throw-some-clothes-in-a-bag-and-go type. But you can still have a successful trip if you just follow a few simple tips, especially if you’re not a frequent traveler.

We really believe in using travel apps to help you plan your trip and to take screenshots of good ideas. Pick a couple apps you really like and start using them around your home town. Use them to pick some places you’d like to visit on your trip.

Also, pack your clothes with a color scheme in mind, so you can mix and match more easily, which means you don’t have to pack as much. There are also some tips on what to pack in order to make your outfit look different very easily. You really don’t need a different outfit for every day of the trip. Instead plan on doing laundry or reusing certain items. And just mix and match different items for different looks. Over packing is easy to do if you’re not careful.

It’s not a bad idea to wear shoes that are easy to take off, and don’t take any more than three pair for the entire trip. Wear the heaviest pair on the plane so you have more room in your suitcase for your smaller shoes.

One item we didn’t see in the list, but we think it’s important: if you’re flying, prep before you get to the front of the security line. Make sure you have the items you’ll need to remove from your luggage in an easily accessible part of your luggage. Make sure your ticket and ID are also easy to find. The last thing you want to do when you get to the front of the line is fumble around for your identification.

What about our frequent travelers? Any advice you would offer new travelers, especially those who are a little more. . . ah, carefree about their organization? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Hotel Safety Tips for Wifi

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Should you use the free wifi at your hotel? That depends on how sensitive the information is that you’re accessing online or you have on your computer. Even if you feel comfortable and safe and have good security measures in place, you still want to exercise caution when using it; avoid extremely sensitive tasks such as online banking or accessing sensitive business information.

Norton, a well-known antivirus provider, has several suggestions about Internet security within hotel rooms.

Chicago Hilton hotel room

Chicago Hilton hotel room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing you should do when checking into a hotel is to make sure that you choose the proper wifi network. Hackers are known to trick users looking for free wifi by creating a network that will trick them into using it. Don’t jump on something called “Free Wifi” for instance. Before you ever log on, call the front desk and ask for the name of the network.

Another solution Norton discusses is using a VPN or virtual private network, if you’re traveling for work. If your company has a VPN, logging onto it will give you the same security you enjoy while working from your office behind the security firewall.

Next, change your passwords frequently. You’ve probably heard this a million times; we all have. But it keeps being repeated because it’s great advice. Set up a system to remind yourself to change passwords every three months. Don’t use single words or names of family members or pets. Use a password management system like 1Password to generate long passwords with random letters, numbers, and special characters.

Also, avoid network sharing. Norton says to avoid situations where other computers are communicating directly with yours while you’re in a fairly unsecure location, such as a hotel.

These are also good tips for working in the local coffee shop, your hotel room, or anytime you’re on a public network. What are some other computer security tips you follow on the road? Share them with us in the comments.

Brussels Airport Seeks to Reduce Wait Times With Passenger Tracking Sensors

June 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on the Future Travel Experience website discusses a new initiative at the Brussels Airport: tracking customers via their personal electronic devices in order to create estimates of how long it will take passengers to travel through the airport. They’re hoping this will help reduce queues at the airport: If officials know when to expect passengers at the gate, they can effectively staff for the influx.

According to the article, “the sensors, which are supplied by BLIP Systems, track passengers via their personal electronic devices. They collect the unique Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of phones, tablets and other devices searching for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.”

Brussels Airport Terminal A

Brussels Airport Terminal A

The sensors will record as passengers pass by them to help predict the length of the passengers’ travel time through the airport. This can also provide accurate times to airport and airline personnel about how quickly travelers will get through security and so on.

But many folks may not have their phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection or their Bluetooth activated, especially when traveling internationally. So this type of tracking may not work for everyone. (Of course, most Europeans traveling through Europe will already have their phones activated, so it will track with intra-continental travelers.)

We think this kind of tracking will continue to be on the rise. In the airport of the future, there may be a way to do this easily, and it will be more common as time goes on. Recording and predicting traffic patterns of travelers is something we think will become more widespread as time goes on.

However, it’s not clear whether this is a voluntary tracking system from the viewpoint of the traveler, although the system will only aggregate non-personally identifiable information. Is this something that travelers should be worried about? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

How Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers Travel

June 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The differences between Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers are never more evident than when we travel. Where we go, how we get there, what we do, and how much we spend all vary depending on our demographic. We’re alike in some ways, we’re very different in others.

Shullman Research studied households with an annual income of more than $75,000 to see how each group preferred to travel, and created an infographic to show us just what those differences were.

English: Dubrovnik old city and cruise ship.

Dubrovnik old city and cruise ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are a few examples of what they found.

  • Millennials head to Hawaii more than Boomers and Gen Xers: 19% of Millennials travel to the 50th state, compared to 6% each of Boomers and Gen Xers. Meanwhile, 10% of Boomers prefer Nevada’s dry climate, while 18% of Gen X prefers Florida.
  • When it comes to international travel, 23% of Millennials visit Asia, Generation X heads to the Caribbean (22%) or Canada (21%), while we Boomers head to Europe (61%) or the Caribbean (my favorite; I’m part of the 48% who vacation there).
  • Flying is the preferred method of travel, with 28% of Millennials, 36% of Gen Xers, and 31% of Boomers taking to the air. But 39% of Gen X also prefers to travel by car, since they can turn this thing around if you don’t settle down back there.
  • When it comes to cruises, we were surprised to see Millennials actually prefer them more than their older counterparts — 16% versus 11% (Gen X) and 13% (Boomers).

For more insights and information, you can see the entire infographic at AdWeek.com, and get a better insight into how different demographic groups prefer to travel.

What are your travel preferences? Do you match up with your demographic group, or do you prefer going against conventional wisdom? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.

Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Flight Attendants

June 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If your image of flight attendants is one of “sky waitress,” think again. Even though many people unfortunately think of flight attendants as airborne waitstaff, the truth is that serving food and snacks is not the most important part of the job.

The most important aspect of a flight attendant’s job: your safety.

A recent article on Yahoo Travel gave us the lowdown on flight attendants. And while we thought we knew most of the “surprising things,” there were a few that even surprised us.

Singapore Airlines flight attendants

Singapore Airlines flight attendants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, the government considers flight attendants to be first responders, just like fire fighters and paramedics. Many are trained in all kinds of ways to respond to emergencies including CPR training and helping people give birth. Some airlines even require their flight attendants to attend jungle survival skill training, and many require their flight attendants know how to swim.

We think it’s a tough, demanding job. Flight attendants have to deal with a lot of challenging situations, including the ones created by their own airlines. For example, as more airlines are charging for checked bags, this is creating a situation where there’s often not enough space in the overhead bins for all the carry-on bags.

Guess who gets to tell the last passengers they have to check their bags.

This brings us to another requirement of flight attendants: They also are often required to have a high tolerance for interacting with people behaving badly. Remember the last time you saw a passenger get irate with a flight attendant? That wasn’t the only time they had to deal with an angry passenger that day.

Finally, flight attendants need to enjoy flying. Not just tolerate it, enjoy it. That’s because some of them don’t live in the same city as their main hub airport. That means they have to fly into work just to do their job.

Do you have any good stories about flight attendants who made your trip a real treat? Let us hear from you. Leave us a comment here or over on our Facebook page.

4 Frequent Flier Mile Pro Tips

June 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

One thing that we think about fairly often is frequent flier miles and programs. Since the airlines are changing how their programs are working, we’re always looking for new ways to earn and use miles.

A recent article on Vox.com gives us a few more tips on how to use these programs wisely.

United Airlines

United Airlines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first frequent flier programs was started in 1981 by American Airlines and was such a raging success that it immediately inspired other airlines to follow suit. And of course, these programs remain in place to this day.

(Which also means if one airline does something, it won’t be long before another one joins them. This includes changes to your frequent flier program.)

When you travel, figure out which program best suits your travel habits. Don’t just think about the airline you always fly; look at the one that best suits your needs based on how you travel versus how you spend money.

There are two basic types of rewards systems: mileage-based and spending-based. Mileage-based systems award you for the miles you travel; spending-based programs (i.e. credit cards) award points based on your spending. In many cases, airlines are now basing their awards on spending as well (cost of ticket).

If you frequently travel long distances, a mileage-based system may be your best bet, although the article says those types of programs are becoming a thing of the past.

Also, choose your airline program based on practical considerations, such as living near and flying out of a particular airport’s hub. If you live near Chicago O’Hare, United Airlines is your main airline, so it doesn’t make as much sense to join Delta’s program.

Another challenge is time and cost. When do you need to fly and what flights are available versus the cost of those flights? If you have the time, you can wait for cheaper flights. If you don’t have time, you may spend more money to fly when it fits your schedule, which may affect whether you can fly on your chosen airline.

If this happens frequently, this is where the spending-based program is your better option.

Finally, we also like the tip, “don’t’ sit on your miles, spend them.” Spend them when you get them. There’s no need to hoard miles. Use them for upgrades, or swap them out for merchandise, or even in a points-swapping program, like Points.com.

How do you manage your miles? Let us hear from you. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Travel Robots Are Taking Over Our Vacations

June 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

While we still don’t have jetpacks, or personal hovercraft to take us to work, we are seeing more robots that assist travelers with mundane, easily automated tasks.

After reading about them in a Yahoo Travel article, these robots sound like they will add a lot of comfort and convenience to the weary traveler.

English: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport entrance

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First up is the car parking valet robot, located in Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport. This handy robot allows travelers to drop their cars off and then actually transports them to be held in a secret parking location. When you return, the parking robot will already have your car waiting for you, and you don’t have to tip. That sounds pretty great.

Another exciting robot is located at the award-winning Indianapolis airport. This robot is located atop a Segway and gives travelers directions around the airport. It’s like the virtual presence device Sheldon created on Big Bang Theory when he met Steve Wozniak.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has included some robots on the payroll as well. These robots sort baggage and load it onto carts.

Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Quantum of the Seas has an even more exciting robot. It actually makes drinks! Travelers input drink orders into a tablet and the robot cranks them out for you.

And finally, Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, has put a robot to work delivering room service. The main benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about looking respectable when your room service arrives. We’re not sure about the etiquette of robot tipping, however.

We do wonder how far away we are from fully automatic baggage checks. It seems like it would be a pretty great use of this type of technology and it sounds like some places are already halfway there.

We noticed that the bottom of the article contained a survey for readers to indicate how comfortable they are with the new robot technology that is beginning to surround us. Over half of those answering said they are excited about the technology with a much smaller percentage of people worried about robots taking jobs and/or destroying humanity.

How do you feel about robots in the travel business? Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment, or just leave one below. Let us hear from you.

Travel Hacks: Book Hard-to-Get Flights With Travel Miles

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

What do you do when you can’t find a way to use the miles you want at the particular time you want it. Airlines often black out popular travel dates. Or someone else may have nipped in and gotten the only mileage seats associated with a particular flight.

A recent article on Yahoo Travel discusses an issue arising from airlines giving out more and more bonus miles: they aren’t necessarily increasing the number of airline seats sufficient to absorb all these bonus flights.

Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400

Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can sometimes be difficult to use the very travel miles you’ve worked so hard to get, so here are some solutions Yahoo Travel offers:

  • Rather than booking online, call the airline. An agent may know some insider tricks to get you a seat.
  • Rather than use a free seat, use your miles to upgrade an economy seat to the business section. The article cites the example of buying a $300 ticket from New York to LA and then upgrading to business with your miles. You pay a fee, but end up with a $2,400 ticket. We encourage you to use these upgrades on very long or international flights, however. If you have a lot of miles, you’ll sometimes be automatically bumped up to a business class seat when traveling within the U.S.
  • Use award maps to see where you can spend the miles and be flexible about your destination.
  • Think about using alternate airports. If you can get a mileage ticket to near where you’re going, you can then rent a car or hop on a train to your final destination. Keep the convenience of getting to where you’re going in mind before you decide on doing this.
  • Have a mileage guru help you out. (For a fee, of course.)
  • Book your tickets far in advance or very quickly to avoid someone else getting your seat.

Have you found some travel hacks to using your travel miles? Share them with us or on our Facebook page.

School in the Skies: Some Airlines Offer In-Flight College Classes

May 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You can’t necessarily get your degree on your next trip but you can spend some time learning while flying, which we think is a great way to multitask. A recent article in Money Magazine showcased two airlines that offer university level coursework to their passengers. You won’t get college credit for signing on, but you might learn something really interesting! Both airlines plan to rotate courses on a regular basis.

Neil deGrasse Tyson at The Amazing Meeting 6.

Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virgin American is offering courses from “The Great Courses,” which normally have a subscription cost to them. Virgin is footing the bill for this service, which includes lectures on various topics. You can even review entire courses while jet setting the world on Virgin American. Lectures are offered by a number of big names, including astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Jet Blue is also streaming lectures from some big name universities that are made available through Coursera, a well-known player in field of online and recorded education for large audiences. They’re also offering some cooking classes through another provider. With the rising tide of “foodie-ism” that could be quite popular

We think listening to classes while flying is something that could be of interest to many people. A couple of us at Travelpro are eager to try this out, although some of our colleagues say they want nothing but to be entertained when they’re on a plane.

If you’re not flying on one of these airlines, you can also use iTunes U, which offers a lot of different classes from around the world for free, or sign up for Coursera on your own. These types of classes are definitely gaining in popularity and can be quite interesting.

Do keep in mind that some of the classes may be a bit remedial so it may be best to sign up for classes where you don’t know a lot about the topic.

Do you do online learning? What are some of your favorite courses? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Let us hear from you, and give us a couple ideas for our next trip!

Travel Mistakes You’re Not Too Smart to Make

May 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Conde Nast Traveler discusses some common travel mistakes that many travelers think they’re too smart to make.

In other words, even the wiliest traveler can fall prey to these common trip-ups from time to time.

This includes mistakes like paying the airline ticket change fees. Instead of paying a high change fee, the article suggests that you go with an airline that will allow you to change tickets fairly easily if you need to. American Airlines has a travel insurance-like program that does cost a bit, but lets you make changes for free. And Southwest tickets can generally be changed for free if you make the move far enough in advance or for a fairly small amount closer to departure.

English: Cafe Evropa in Prague Ελληνικά: Η Αρ-...

Cafe Evropa in Prague (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another thing that stood out to us was the credit card foreign transaction fee when traveling internationally. You generally want to use your credit card when traveling to get the best exchange rate, but having to pay a fee works against you. So try to get a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee and carry some cash to use for small purchases. If you are traveling overseas, try to exchange your money at your local bank. Generally, the exchange fees are lower than exchanging at your overseas destination.

The article also recommends that you don’t try to tough it out and figure out everything in your destination on your own. Instead, take some time to ask someone at your hotel how to do something or how to get to a particular destination. You can waste your vacation getting overly wrapped up in basic logistics, when you could find the fastest mode of transportation and spend more time enjoying the sights.

Do research in advance so you know ahead of time where you want to go. You can even learn whether the place you intend to stay has a helpful staff. The last thing you want to do is spend your whole vacation floundering around looking for where you want to go.

On a structured trip where you’re going to stop at several destinations, be careful that you don’t miss the one place you want to go. The article suggests that if you have a particular destination on your trip that is particularly dear to you, you should start or end your vacation there to make sure you’re able to make it, rather than squeezing it in somewhere in the middle.

Travel insurance is something we suggest you consider, especially on long trips or those once-in-a-lifetime trips. It’s something that many travelers routinely decline, but in the case that an emergency comes up, it can be a real life saver and money saver.

What are some travel mistakes you’ve made, or work hard to avoid? Leave us a comment and let us hear from you. Or stop by our Facebook page and share your ideas with our Facebook fans.

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