New Technology to Reduce Hotel Noise

February 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever been in a hotel trying to sleep and the wedding party — or fraternity formal, high school band, college football team, or rampaging horde of invading Mongols — returns from its festivities, you know how frustrating it can be to have your peaceful night interrupted.

Now imagine if the hotel could monitor the decibel levels in its rooms and environments and handle the partiers without you having to call down to the front desk?

Quietyme does just that. Founded in 2012 and currently deployed at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as throughout the HotelRed chain, Quietyme installs sensors in rooms for $3/month subscription and samples the noise level in those rooms once per second.

The Phoenix HotelIt streams the results to the front desk so that management can proactively respond. Through independent studies, Quietyme found that its technology reduced hotel noise levels by 65 percent at properties where it was deployed. It also helped reduce property damage.

According to the JD Power’s 2015 North America Hotel Satisfaction Survey, hotel noise is the second largest problem guests report to management after Internet connectivity. According to Huey Zoroufy, chief technology officer for Quietyme, instead of reporting the problem, customers are going online and leaving poor reviews about their stays. Quietyme gives hotels an opportunity to anticipate their clients’ needs, and solve problems before they become problems.

That anticipation translates into a higher score for the hotel, according to the same JD Power study. Hotels scored 310 points higher out of 1,000 if they strongly agreed that the staff anticipated their needs rather than responded to them.

Don’t be surprised if you see this type of technology spread to more hotel chains in the coming year. It might make you think twice about what kind of “in-room activities” you choose to participate in, or not participate in, while on vacation.

What do you do when you have noisy hotel neighbors or other hotel noise? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Ben Chun (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

7 Newest Travel Startups

January 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re more mobile than ever, and not just in our day-to-day lives. Over 1 billion of us traveled internationally last year, and that number is expected to increase by three to four percent this year. There’s lots to manage when you’re on the road, and seven companies have new apps to help you get the most from your experience. We found several new travel start-ups and apps that can ease the burdens of travel and make it a lot more fun.

For those who operate hotels, getting customers to choose your establishment isn’t such a shot in the dark any more. Kaptivating targets potential customers by studying their social media activities and initiates a relationship with them to let them know how a specific hotel could meet their needs.

Lyft car with pink mustacheDo you use Uber and Lyft when you are in a different city? Pistats allows you to analyze all the details of your experiences — frequency, spending, and locations most used — via an integrated map.

Want to get out of Dodge but don’t have a traveling companion? Eo will match your interests, budget, and travel plans with others wanting to go where you’re going. Scroll through profiles, make a connection, and make new friends before you leave town.

Ever wondered where in the world all the best jazz festivals or art festivals are held through the year? Cronomio is a travel calendar that will help you sync your travel with events you don’t want to miss (not just jazz and art).

If you’re a tour operator or travel agency desiring to make and maintain connection with your customers before and after a trip, Keeptrax makes that possible. Keeptrax collates travel information, details of places visited, and photos to help travelers remember all the good things that happened on their trips when they’re making their travelogues for friends.

Moving to Bora Bora and need a nanny? Expat Helpers is an app that explains local labor laws and currency denominations to expedite the process of connecting with and hiring local help.

Get Out is an app that connects those with less run-of-the-mill interests who are looking for out of the ordinary travel experiences with one another. This will help you find that needle-in-a-haystack adventure to do underwater basket weaving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Here are a few other apps that will help you travel safely.

STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and is a free service of the US State Department that makes the US Embassy in the country you’re traveling to aware of your presence there.

SOS is an emergency app that provides you with local numbers for police, fire, and hospital. It has a location finder to help you know where you are in an unfamiliar city.

Medical ID is an emergency app that will allow someone to access health conditions about you even if your phone is locked and you’re unable to communicate.

Finally, Trip It is a password protected app that collates your itinerary, passport, visa, identification information in one place in case those documents are lost or stolen during travel.

Seeing the world is supposed to be fun, not a hassle. These new apps offer you, the savvy traveler, an individualized, unique experience, tailored to needs and desires.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: PraiseLightMedia (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

Eight Ways to Spot a Lousy Hotel

January 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

You know the feeling you get when you show up at a hotel, and it’s nothing like you imagined? That sinking feeling when you open the door to your room, and wonder if someone is playing a prank?

Thankfully, today there are many tools at your disposal online to help you spot a lousy hotel before you get there.

The Cecil Hotel, which inspired the American Horror Story: Hotel series.

The Cecil Hotel, which inspired the American Horror Story: Hotel series.

  1. Photos. If the pictures online feature close-ups or artistic shots that don’t give you a clear impression of the room or the amenities, chances are something’s up.
  2. Too good to be true Photos. If the property seems to feature amenities that don’t jive with the neighborhood, like a beach in Kansas, or they feature something that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. Dated website. If it’s obvious, either by the outdated material or the glaring typos, that the hotel’s management doesn’t seem to care that much about maintaining its online presence, you should be wary of your physical presence on their premises.
  4. Google Maps street view. If the site is short on pictures, but touts its amazing location, do yourself a favor and put the address in Google Maps to take your own look around. Sketchy neighborhoods can’t be hidden when you do a 360 view at street level.
  5. Poor reviews. You can usually tell if the recent reviews are factual or fake. Take note if every review is glowingly positive or completely negative. Black and white reviews aren’t a true representation of a property or an experience.
  6. Poor online etiquette. If management replies to the negative reviews online, that should be your first clue. Customer complaints should be handled privately, not responded to publicly. The one caveat: if management is actually showing how they’ve positively responded to a situation, that’s great. But if they get into arguments with customers, that’s not so great.
  7. Bed Bug Registry. It’s a real site. It only takes a few minutes to do a quick search before you book your room, instead of frantically searching for the bedside light in the middle of the night to find what you felt crawling on you!
  8. No interior photos. If the site has no pictures of the accommodations but only of the area surrounding the hotel, odds are what you see around is better than what you’ll see inside.

How do you spot a lousy hotel? Do you have any favorite websites or review sites? Tell us about them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Five Ways Airlines are Making Travel Better

December 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

So you can’t get a less cramped seat these days, unless you fly business or first class. But some airlines are adding perks they hope will help you think better of them while you’re wishing for more leg room. They’re trying to make travel better for everyone, regardless of which class seat you fly.

  1. Suitcase delivery. Through a service called Bags VIP, Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United will all allow you to skip baggage claim entirely and meet up with your bags at your home, office, or hotel, provided it is within 40 miles of the airport. Yes, it costs extra, but if you’re wanting to make the most of a short stay at, say, Disney World, you could use this service to go directly to the parks instead of waiting for your bags.
  2. Food and drinks on-demand. Virgin has found that it’s so “old school” to have its flight attendants push a cart down the aisle to provide its travelers food and drinks. Instead, passengers can order just what they want, when they want from touch screens mounted in the seat ahead of them. The airline reports it sells more items this way. It also keeps the aisles clear for those who feel the need to use the restrooms at the thought of a beverage.
  3. Baggage carousel, Kuala Lumpur airport

    Baggage carousel, Kuala Lumpur airport

  4. Baggage on-time or else. Since 2015, Alaska Airlines has given travelers who have to wait more than 20 minutes for their bags a travel voucher equal to the $25 check fee. This year, Delta added teeth to its similar promise by offering 2,500 miles to those inconvenienced at the baggage carousel. Alaska gives you two hours to report your claim and Delta, three days.
  5. Coat check. What do you do with your winter coat if you’re leaving New York’s JFK for a warmer clime? If you’re flying with JetBlue, you can use its coat check! The service is good only on domestic flights and costs $2/day, but it beats having to lug a parka with your luggage once you get to your sunny destination.
  6. While entertainment options have been fairly abundant on planes for years now, the latest upgrade offered is streaming directly to your own smartphone or tablet. Delta has the most comprehensive service in this category, providing streaming on all but its 50-seat regional jets and on more than half of its international fleet.

These perks show that airlines are betting that providing a customizable, more personal travel experience will create brand loyalty. (We’d still like some more leg room though.)

Have you taken advantage of any of these amenities? What did you think? Let us hear from you in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: David McKelvey (Flickr, Creative Commons)

10 Things Airlines are Doing to Make Coach more Comfortable

December 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

While the price may not be going down, many airlines are making an effort to demonstrate that they care about their coach customers’ comfort as much as they do about those in business and first class by instituting some changes to the seats and providing amenities.

We found a Yahoo Travel article that showed us some of the ways airlines are working to make coach more comfortable.

A British Airways 747 - coach cabin

A British Airways 747 coach cabin

  1. Air New Zealand, China Airlines, and Air Astana all offer flat bed options in economy class. Dubbed “Cuddle Class” on Air New Zealand, a row of seats can be purchased so that two people can lay flat during the flight. The only catch? They have to purchase the third seat in the row, but it’s only half the price of the other seats.
  2. Air New Zealand is offering the Space Seat in its premium economy class. It gives passengers space and privacy and the couch-style seats rotate for better legroom.
  3. Lufthansa has created a slimmer seats and Delta now offers economy comfort class, which includes priority boarding, 50 percent more recline, four more inches of legroom, and adjustable head and leg rests. Qantas, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic have also made improvements to their seating configurations.
  4. KLM is offering passengers the opportunity to select their seats using social media connections. We’re not sure this is an improvement or a way to stalk other passengers, but passengers of the Dutch airline seem to have taken to it.
  5. Virgin America, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Emirates all claim improved in-flight entertainment options. Now at least we’re not stuck watching that one film everyone has seen.
  6. Other airlines are figuring out another way to improve entertainment options. OpenSkies and Quantas offer free iPads to stream their in-flight entertainment content, and Jetstar, Philippine Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines will rent an iPad to you.
  7. United, Alaska, Malaysia, and American Airlines have all adopted the Boeing Sky Interior, designed to make the cabin seem bigger and brighter.
  8. LAN Chile, JAL, Air India, Royal Air Maroc, and United utilize Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner planes, which have special air filtration and cooling systems. These filter bacteria, viruses, and odors.
  9. Singapore Airlines has employed Michelin-starred chefs on its longer flights to create more appealing food in all its classes.
  10. Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, JetBlue, and Etihad Airways are all offering amenities kits with items ranging from socks to pillows to toothbrushes.

What are some changes you’ve seen on your favorite airline? How are they (or are they) making coach more comfortable for you? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

American Launches Live Baggage Tracking

December 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you fly American or US Airways, you may just find a good use for that baggage claim ticket you receive when you check your bag at the ticket counter. No longer is it only useful if you actually lose your bag.

Now you can use the information it contains to track your bags in real time.

This new free service is an effort by American to reduce the number of bags it reports as lost to the US Department of Transportation. (You probably didn’t know they had to do that, did you?)

In the July 2015 report (interesting reading for a travel nerd), American ranked 10th out of 13 carriers, with four bags lost for every 1,000 passengers it transported.

Palermo (italy) Airport Baggage Claim

Palermo (italy) Airport Baggage Claim

That doesn’t sound so bad, but compared to the top three with the least number of bags lost — Virgin America (less than one bag for every 1000 passengers), JetBlue (1.68/1000), and Delta (1.82/1000) — maybe American felt it was time this process issue was addressed.

In order to track your bag, all you have to do is go to AA.com/baggage and click the “track your bags” link. Enter your last name and either your record locator (which is on your boarding pass) OR baggage ID number from your baggage claim ticket, and you can see a record of each of the six times your bag will be scanned from check-in to baggage claim carousel loading.

The tracking feature is currently available on American’s standard and mobile sites, but has not yet been incorporated into its mobile app.

In our next article, we’ll tell you how USDOT actually determines what constitutes a “lost” bag.

Have you ever suffered a lost bag on a recent trip? What happened? How did you manage? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

 

Photo credit: Bernhard J. Scheuvens (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

Boats, Trains, and Automobiles: Luggage Options When You DON’T Fly

December 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel seems to revolve around airplanes these days, but there are other ways to travel the country. If you don’t have to conform to airline guidelines and your plans take you away from home for more than a week, you may need to take more with you. Investing in larger luggage allows you to get your stuff from here to there without putting yourself or your clothing through contortions to do so.

We offer many options for those who choose other means of transportation for their getaways. While not everyone needs the space afforded by larger luggage, it can be a space saving option to consider, especially for families traveling by car.

30 inch Tpro Bold Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel

30 inch Tpro Bold Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel

Our 26″ and 30″ rolling duffel bags can accommodate the needs several travelers, particularly several children or the clothing for an adult and a child, reducing the number of bags in the trunk or on the train or boat. Many of these duffels are drop-bottom, meaning that there is a separate lower compartment for storing shoes, cables and other odd-sized items. If you want one large compartment, you can unzip the divider panel for one large packing space. They are an excellent value for the price.

Travelpro has developed a specific bag for the non-airplane traveler: the 33″ Expandable Spinner model. Available only through certain retailers, this case is our largest offering, designed specifically for the traveler whose needs exceed the 28″ and 29″ cases. The bag operates with a spinner wheel system, allowing it to be pushed or pulled, and it is surprisingly lightweight for its size.

Or if you’re like most dads, you may want a “hotel bag” — the bag that gets taken into the hotel so you don’t have to unpack everything — on long car trips. A smaller duffel or backpack could serve that purpose.

What kinds of bags do you take when you’re not traveling by plane? Do you have a favorite or a go-to bag? Share your stories with us in the comment section below, or on our Facebook page.

Will the U.S. Government Regulate Airline Seating?

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Ever feel like a heard of cattle being herded to market instead of a human being when you board your airplane? The aisle is narrow and your head almost grazes the ceiling. But that’s not the worst part of the experience. Things really begin to feel confining after you have found your seat.

There’s a new movement that’s gaining momentum among travelers: aviation civil rights. Leading this fight for more space are Travelers United and FlyersRights, two advocacy groups seeking the government’s regulation of airline seating. Chris Elliott, who has written articles on Travelpro luggage in the past, wrote an editorial for the Washington Post about the subject. He believes that just as there is legislation that determines safety for steerage passengers on boats and passengers in automobiles, similar laws should guarantee certain travel conditions for passengers.

Economy Class airline seating onboard onboard an Aerolíneas Argentinas Airbus A340-200, enroute from Auckland to Buenos Aires

Economy Class cabin onboard an Aerolíneas Argentinas Airbus A340-200, enroute from Auckland to Buenos Aires. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his editorial, Elliott cites seating changes — the decrease in legroom from 35″ to 31″ and the reduction in seat width from 18″ to 16 1/2″ — as not only an emotional violation of personal space, but a safety issue. Space designated for animals is regulated, so why are airlines being allowed to change how it transports its passengers without oversight?

The fight comes down to politics and the free market. The airlines believe that if you want or need more space, you can pay for it, and that further involvement from the government would not only result in price increases for the consumer, but a stifling of competition within the market.

But Elliott and others counter that, just as the government saw the need to regulate automobiles for safety by requiring seat belts, passengers need laws that will govern their safety while traveling in airplanes.

Decreased legroom and smaller aisles have been cited as potential hazards for evacuation “in the event of an emergency,” and regulation that benefits travelers’ basic human rights was successfully enacted after passengers spent inordinate hours on the tarmac without food, water, or access to bathrooms.

The Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection has just announced it will not make a recommendation on minimum seat sizes. Some believe it will take a tragedy to see change. Until then, it appears consumers will have to either put up or shut up.

Where do you stand (or sit)? Should the government regulate airline seating sizes, or should they let the market dictate? Do you pay for the extra room in economy plus or business class? Or do you suffer in silence in the smaller seats? Leave a comment below or
on our Facebook page
.

Quebec City Airport Deploys Apple Watches

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Technology drives efficiency in our daily lives. We retrieve information from our laptops, tablets, and phones and use it to make decisions in real time. But can personal technology be deployed — and trusted? — in a airport environment with the same results?

According to an article on FutureTravelExperience.com, airport management at Canada’s Quebec City Airport is testing this idea by equipping workers in specific roles with smartwatches. They’re working with SITA Lab, a technology research firm that works with the air transport industry to conduct the tests.Quebec City AirportThe watches replace tablets that workers used to check for updates about gate changes and other operational details. The watches are connected to the SITA Airport Management System, which will push notifications to duty managers with real-time operational updates.

Being able to push notifications to a wearable device is allowing workers to take immediate action, according to Marc-André Bédard, Quebec City Airport’s Vice President of Information Technology. This, in turn, is creating a better experience for travelers, eliminating wait times that caused delays because workers weren’t getting critical details in a timely manner.

While this trial may signal the end of the walkie-talkie, it remains to be seen if the smartwatches can withstand the rigorous wear and tear these workers put them through during their typical shifts. If it does, we’re curious as to how well the watches will hold up to this kind of use, and whether the technology will spread to other airports around the world.

What are some of your TILTS (“technology I’d like to see”) ideas? What about technology you’ve seen used in airports, train stations, or on the road? Share your experiences with us below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Harfang (Creative Commons)

The Pros and (Considerable) Cons of Bus Travel

November 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Some people really like a deal. Others are gluttons for punishment, especially reporters who need a column topic.

Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, recently profiled Megabus and his experience traveling from New York to Silver Springs, Md., to Knoxville, Tenn., to Lexington, Ky. The entire itinerary cost him $63. But was it worth it?

Haven’t heard of Megabus? Well, perhaps you’re not cash-strapped and looking for the cheapest possible way to get to your desired destination. Megabus’ fares start at $1. No, that’s not a typo.

English: Megabus #58538 sits on the west side ...

Megabus #58538 waiting to depart on the Megabus M24 line. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Serving the 14 of the 50 states, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and eleven countries in Europe, Megabus is all about bang for the buck.

Megabus is a double-decker, climate-controlled, clean coach that will get you where you need to go, but it doesn’t boast it will do much more than that. Still, it’s not trying to pass itself off as something that it’s not. It’s no-frills, affordable, reliable way to travel. Period.

Megabus is just the latest iteration of bus travel. Greyhound popularized affordable mass ground transportation and became a favorite of those averse to flying. My sister was one of those travelers.

While she lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., the rest of the family lived in Jackson, Miss. In order to visit us, she would embark on a road trip that took 48 hours end-to-end. Her trek included long layovers at terminals in major cities as well as circuitous routes between her Point A and Point B. You could say that she wasted all kinds of time en route, but she preferred it to flying, and she thought it was completely worth it.

So, if you don’t have much money, but have to get somewhere within the United States or Canada, consider Megabus. Just remember Seth’s biggest suggestion: pack a pillow and a blanket.

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