Marriott Tests In-Room Netflix Service

April 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re staying in a Marriott hotel and find you miss your Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, and don’t want to chew up the data on your cell phone, you’re in luck. Marriott is planning a new in-room entertainment service that includes access to the three entertainment streaming services.

A Yahoo Travel article reported that Marriott is working with a number of different content providers to get their different hotel chains up and running with the latest in on-demand programming.

English: Copenhagen Marriott Hotel Dansk: Cope...

Copenhagen Marriott Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We think this is a smart move on Marriott’s part, because it not only helps the people who already have the service, but it could be a lower-cost alternative to the in-room movies or trying to catch up with the shows you may have missed.

Its usefulness will boil down to how much it costs. Hotels already charge a lot of money just to watch movies, so if this service will cost an arm and a leg, it may not be worth it to many travelers.

On the other hand, sometimes when people are bored and trapped in a hotel room, they’ll pay for anything. What else can explain the continued existence of the minibar?

And if Marriott can come up with an affordable way to do this, especially for people who already have accounts, or make it affordable for people who want to take the services for a test drive, it seems like a great idea.

It also seems like allowing people to view Netflix on the hotel TV instead of wifi would be a great way to free up some wifi bandwidth, which tends to get bogged down, as people watch Netflix on their laptops and tablets.

However, Marriott seems to also be exploring the option of allowing guests to upgrade to a paid “premium” Internet connection.

Since guests with Netflix and similar accounts can already access those services through wifi, they could get a guaranteed high-speed service. Or Marriott could throttle video streaming through their regular wifi, which would force viewers to shell out for the extra bandwidth.

Access to movies and music that doesn’t have to endure a long load time can perhaps be considered worth paying for, especially if your kids need it to settle down after a long day on the road.

What do you think? Would you pay extra for Netflix in your hotel room? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Marriott Backs Down and Says it Won’t Block Wi-Fi… For Now

April 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

After previously announcing in January that they were going to block hotel guests’ personal wifi devices at conferences, Marriott has backed down, after facing a great deal of blowback from consumer groups, frequent guests, Google, Microsoft, and the news media.

The hotel giant was recently fined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for blocking wifi access in Nashville and their knuckles are apparently still stinging from the rap. They did file a petition to the FCC and do not plan to withdraw it, and have said they still wish to receive clarification on the rule.

English: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marriott says that they put these blocks in place to protect against cyberthreats.

But despite the hotel chain’s thirst for security, they have backed down and promised not to jam guests’ signals while at their hotel chain.

The main reason they seem to be backing off due to a resounding amount of public criticism, coming in the form of public comments, negative new articles, and vows from guests not to spend another dime at Marriott.

This is the type of fury that can only be roused by someone attempting to take wireless devices away from the American consumer and Marriott seems to have seen its mistake.

“To set the record straight it has never been nor will it ever be Marriott’s policy to limit our guests’ ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices. . . To be clear, this matter does not involve in any way Wi-Fi access in hotel guest rooms or lobby spaces,” Marriott said in a recent statement after the controversy grew so big that the New York Times ran a scathing article about the incidents.

What do you think? How important are your wifi devices to you when you travel?

Bring This, Not That: Should You Take a Taxi, Hire a Car, or Drive to the Airport?

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When you’re going to the airport, what’s the most cost effective way of getting there and getting home again? Should you hire a cab or an Uber driver, or even a black town car? Or should you park your car in long-term parking?

In some cases, this really is a “six of one, half dozen of the other” scenario. So how do you figure out which is the better choice?

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

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

I always prefer to hire a car to take me to the airport if we’re going on vacation. I’m already going to have to pay for parking if we drive our own car, which can really add up if it’s an extended stay. Out of pocket, the car service will be more than parking, but the convenience can outweigh a lot of things.

For one thing, I prefer a car service because being dropped off curb side saves on a lot of stress, especially if the whole family is going. So it’s always important to look for a car service that is decently priced, because prices can vary quite a bit.

Other considerations are the distance to the airport. How far away are you and what is the cost to get there by yourself in your car versus hiring a car or taxi? If you’re close to an airport, it’s a lot more economical to take a cab.

The airport pricing for parking varies. Finding a spot can be difficult if you’re at a busy airport, so you may need to valet park the car, which costs even more.

You can also consider park-and-flies, which are offsite parking services. You pay less, and a shuttle transports you to your terminal. They come by every half an hour, so you can stand on the curb at the airport (and the parking lot) and wait for them to make their return trip. This option is generally a lot less expensive than airport parking

Another option in larger cities is public transportation. In Florida, look for the Tri-Rail, which can get you from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami airport with great ease. You have to buy a ticket both ways but it’s a great option for extended stays and could be cheaper than a car service or a taxi.

It is more time consuming because it has more stops, however, so there’s the whole money-versus-time conundrum to figure out. But in terms of total dollars, the only thing cheaper is a friend who’s willing to help you out.

So how do you usually get to the airport? What’s your standard mode of transportation? Do you park and ride, take a cab, or even public transportation? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.

Turkish Airlines to Improve Passenger Experience Even More

March 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A new airport is being built in Istanbul, Turkey over the next five years, with Turkish Airlines slated to be the “flagship tenant.” In this new space, Turkish Airlines plans to use cutting edge technology and personal hospitality to create a better passenger experience for their customers.

Turkish Airlines already takes great pride in offering comfortable spaces for travelers to relax in, so this should be interesting for those people who like to travel in comfort. The airline focuses on showing passengers a great degree of civility and hospitality, especially in their pay-to-enter lounges.

In the paying lounges, they’ve rolled out push notifications alerting passengers to gate changes, flight changes, and even nearby sales. This is already being tried out in airports in Istanbul and has apparently been a hit because Turkish Airlines announced last spring that they intend to make this a permanent feature.

Another great program that Turkish Airlines is rolling out is free tours of Istanbul to travelers on a layover of six hours or more. That way, travelers don’t have to waste a huge chunk of their time sitting around the airport, but can also feel more secure that they’ll get back to the airport on time since the tours are sponsored by an airline.

These types of pampering are about improving the travelers’ experiences and making things a little more convenient, even as travel seems to be more hectic and uncomfortable in this day and age.

Perks like this may eventually make their way to the U.S. If you’re in any major city in America, say New York or Miami, wouldn’t you be interested in a brief tour of that city during a long layover? We’re also interested in seeing push notifications for travelers, as well as a few other creature comforts at our airports.

We’ll look forward to seeing some of these improvements arrive here in the U.S. too.

How Young is too Young to Travel?

March 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A CNN article in March discussed some of the challenges associated with traveling with young children and how to determine when your child is old enough to travel.

We were intrigued by the idea but it also made us think about the benefits of traveling with young children. Some families travel with their kids to give them a new experience. Even young children, around three or four years old, are traveling with their families to Brazil or China. Those kids are experiencing different cultures in a way that many of us never will.

Lars Plougmann via Compfight (Creative Commons)

We’re not sure exactly what the right age is for kids to really learn something from travel. If they’re too young they may not get much out of it. But what’s that age limit? On the one hand, they may pick up some appreciation for different cultures and foods. On the other, they may learn patience just from sitting still in a car or plane for several hours.

My daughter is three, and I’m not sure she’d learn a lot from international travel, but I think it would be fun and good for her to expose her to different cultures. It just depends on how she would handle it. On the other hand, a colleague says she wouldn’t take her sons to restaurants at three.

It really depends on the temperament of the child and the patience of the parents. You have to make the call yourself on what is the right age for your child.

It’s a great idea if you have the means and the time to do it, but we don’t think there’s a magic age when it all happens because it’s so subjective and depends so much on each child.

Another important factor the article mentions is that you can make travel easier by choosing to drive or to schedule flights at times that are best for your child. We know someone who would drive from Indiana to Disney World by leaving at 10:00 pm, when his kids were asleep, so they would sleep through most of the drive. Of course, he was wiped out by the time he got there, but it was much better than dealing with unhappy kids during the daylight hours.

What age did you (or would you) start traveling with your children? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.

6 Tips for Making Solo Travel Amazing

March 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve all heard that we should be careful when traveling alone, and we sometimes worry that this keeps people from traveling at all.

The whole “you need to be comfortable with yourself” philosophy aside for the moment, we think it’s possible, and even enjoyable, to travel by yourself.

We recently read an article in Women’s Health about traveling alone. Although the article is aimed at women, men could benefit from some of the tips as well, such as dressing more conservatively than you would at home, especially if you’re going to visit a country where the culture is very different from your own.

Also, avoid dressing like you’re going to Home Depot on a Saturday morning. Try to fit in more with the local fashion, if only to avoid being identified as a tourist. Keep your gadgets, if you have them with you, hidden away in public places in order to avoid scrutiny and increased security.

If you want to meet people while traveling, go on a group trip as an individual. This way, you can meet people without having to make too much effort as it’s a lot easier to make new friends within such a group. Going somewhere as a volunteer is another great way to meet new people because in most cases, you will work together with others as a team to accomplish something meaningful.

We also liked the advice “be unapologetically selfish.” When you travel alone, you get to see only the things you want to see, so you can skip the collection telegraph pole photographs just because someone else wanted to see them. And you don’t have to visit the museum everyone else says you “have to” see.

One of our employees is a woman who has traveled extensively for business. She said these tips apply for business travelers too, because she tries to make some time to see the sights. She strongly recommends having a game plan in mind for what you want to see. This is especially important if you’re traveling on business, because your free time will be fairly limited.

She says she has a hard time taking the “Be unapologetically selfish” advice in the article to heart, but was intrigued by the idea. She thinks that both women and men should make an effort to have some down time just for themselves while traveling.

What special things do you do for yourself, or special precautions do you take, when you’re traveling alone? Do they work more for personal travel or business travel? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.

Biggest Mistakes People Make When Traveling

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in Yahoo travel about the mistakes that travelers tend to make got us thinking about our own advice for travelers.

One tip we make over and over is not having cash in hand before we set out on our travels. Although we mostly recommend that travelers use their cards when traveling and to have a limited amount of cash before you set out is extremely helpful because some places in the area you’re visiting might not take cards (for example, the toll booths on the Florida turnpike don’t take plastic).

Nice ATM

ATM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our employees has upcoming travel plans that include Spain and he plans to get Euros at his bank before he heads out. He says that using ATMs overseas can be dicey in that you may have your card flagged. We also feel that the exchange places at and near the airports can be overpriced.

We also believe not researching your destination is a huge mistake. Know what you want to visit before you go. Otherwise, you may end up in a beautiful area and not know what’s so great about it. Smartphones can help in this case, but they may not know important tourist destinations could be booked or you could arrive on the wrong day to hit a hot spot. Know before you go.

Our same globe-trotting employee took a list of destinations on a recent trip to Italy. Once he got there, he and his family cut back on the list and talked to locals about what was really worth their time. They ended up having the best possible trip because they were able to create a big list and cull from it, rather than try to decide where to go each morning, and miss better sights and venues.

The article says that relying heavily on public transport is a mistake. However, we tend to think that renting a car is the bigger mistake relating to getting around while traveling in a foreign land. That’s because it’s hard to really understand the traffic patterns and it’s certainly difficult to navigate when you can’t read the road signs.

It’s probably better to rent a car only if you plan on staying somewhere for an extended period of time. Stick with the public transportation whenever possible; in many of these countries, especially Western Europe, they excel at public transportation, and many locals don’t even own cars because the transportation is so good.

What are some of the travel mistakes you’ve made? What have you seen other people do? Leave us a blog comment or post something on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Art Supplies for Kids

March 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

2 woodless graphite pencils in plastic sheaths...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airlines Are Unlocking New Value In Their Frequent Flier Programs

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

Multiple racks of servers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

Carnival Liberty, Carnival Triumph and Carniva...

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

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

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

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

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

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