New Warning about Luggage Tags

June 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.

The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.

This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Don't share photos of your airline luggage tags on social media -- the bar code is readable and contains a lot of personal information.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:

  1. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
  2. Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
  3. Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
  4. Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.

Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.

What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Five Tips for Surviving Your Next Business Trip

June 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sure, a business trip is all about getting work done, and you may have built-in companions for your down time, but that doesn’t mean your next trip has to be all work and no play.

You know what they say about that, and nobody wants to be “dull.” We recently wrote about how John Greathouse, the creator of GoToMeeting, became a fan of spending a least half a day of each business trip finding something enjoyable to do. It changed his whole outlook on his business travel, and he began to see some sights and landmarks while he was traveling around the world.

There are a few other things you should do to make sure you and your traveling companions are getting everything out of your next trip.

  1. Plan carefully. When traveling with a group of colleagues, avoiding hurdles hinges on everyone knowing what to expect: what hotel you’ll be staying at, what the agenda is, how you’ll get from point A to point B once you arrive, and whether everyone should carry on or check their bags. Plan those details, and then share them with everyone in advance.
  2. Pack smart. Earplugs might help you sleep with a snoring roommate, and headphones on a flight are an international sign for “I don’t want to talk right now.” If you know you’ll have a layover, pack a paperback or a deck of cards to help pass the time.
  3. Dress for Success. This should go without saying, but if everyone isn’t aware of the travel itinerary, someone might show up dressed casually instead of being prepared to meet clients directly after deplaning. Don’t let that someone be you or anyone on your team. And if you’re going to be sharing a room, don’t rely on the hotel supplying a robe. Pack your own or pajamas so that your roommate isn’t subjected to you being unprepared for the situation. Nobody signed up for that on a business trip.
  4. Schedule Fun. We know a professional speaker who makes a point to visit a restaurant suggested by the locals.This looks like a nice place to eat on a business trip. Better than most hotel restaurants. She calls this her “Tour de Tastebuds.” She will take her assistant and someone from the event planning team to the recommended place, rating it for atmosphere, taste, and how it made them feel. Every city has something it’s known for. Give your teammates a taste of the locale by planning a small excursion of this type in your downtime.
  5. Choose Your Attitude. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Whatever can go wrong, will,” but don’t be overly nervous. You can’t anticipate everything even in a well-planned trip, so remember to pack your best attitude and be flexible. Control what you can and adapt as needed. Don’t be that one member of the group who whines and complains. That only makes the trip less fun, and you don’t want to be labeled as The Spoiler.

What kind of group travel stories do you have to share? Good ones, or some travel horror stories?Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Inkflo (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

One Thing That Makes Business Travel More Enjoyable

June 8, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Over the last few years, we’ve written about how to cope with the rigors of business travel. We’ve documented the negative physical, psychological, and emotional stresses, and suggested ways to change your approach so that you are better prepared, not only to make the most of it, but to recover quickly after it. But it’s still travel, and those who travel even once a month know business travel can be rough.

But if your travel schedule exhausts you, imagine being John Greathouse, the start-up entrepreneur behind GoToMeeting and other successful new businesses. He shared in a Forbes article how he would travel without any margin for error or rest, often flying a red-eye to a foreign country to visit a client, only to arrive and go directly into a full day of meetings that didn’t end until after a late dinner.
Skyline of Paris, France at night. Imagine a business travel trip like this!
When he would arrive home, friends would ask him what he saw in well-known destinations such as Paris. He would proudly declare that he only saw the airport, the sites where he met his clients, the interior of cabs, and hotel rooms. He realized he was, a “proud, yet pathetic, road warrior.”

Although he made Herculean efforts to remain committed to his family — often flying overseas just for a weekend at home with his wife and kids — he realized he was sacrificing opportunities for the sake of doing business efficiently. He had visited dozens of countries and had no memories other than those related to work. He knew he had to change.

He found himself inspired to become a part-time tourist while on his business trips by taking a cue from professional surfer Shaun Tomson. As detailed in an article on inertia.com, Tomson was headed to Milwaukee, not exactly a surfing mecca, to share the themes of his book, The Code: The Power of “I Will”, with some corporate execs.

Here’s where Tomson’s approach diverted from Greathouse’s. Instead of trying to squeeze as much business from each city he visits, he asks himself, “What can I do to make this business trip more rewarding?”

For Tomson, that meant Googling “surf shops in Milwaukee” and contacting the shocked owner of Lake Effect Surf Shop, Jacob Bresette, and asking if he could stop by. That call resulted in an impromptu surfing outing in frigid waters with some fellow enthusiasts, and Tomson’s first experience with freshwater waves.

Tomson recounted, “The waves weren’t stellar, but it was still an epic session for me because the stoke level was off the charts. Here I was in Middle America, surfing with guys who brave frigid conditions to partake in the sport I love. They thanked me for stopping by, but the truth is, I was the one who felt honored.”

Greathouse has taken Tomson’s approach to heart and suggests others do too. When you plan your next business trip, remember that there’s more to experience there than the closing of a deal. Perhaps you could meet up with some people in that town who also share a hobby, or schedule some quiet moments of reflection and engagement with the beauty of a park or a museum. In Tomson’s case, his efforts also led to increased book sales and improving his personal brand. Plus, he got to have a little fun.

When your whole person is engaged in business travel, all aspects of it — even those related to the business you’re there to conduct — will be enriched.

How do you travel for business? Are you in and out as quickly as possible, or do you look for future experiences and memories? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Jim Trodel (Flikr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Smaller Airports Gain Attention of international Carriers

June 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re planning your summer overseas vacation, you may be surprised to discover you have new options for flying out of a smaller regional airport closer to home. According to Brian Pearce, chief economist and director of the International Air Transport Association, 700 routes have been added in the past year.

The increased numbers of people traveling, the entrance of new low-cost carriers bringing long-haul flights to consumers, and the frustration with congestion at bigger airports have fueled the upsurge in offerings at smaller airports, John Grant, senior analyst with OAG, told the New York Times.

While most of the new airports with international offerings are in the U.S., carriers have increased their fight options in European and Asian markets as well. This provides travelers with a larger selection for segmented travel while overseas as well.

What has made this a profitable consideration for the airlines? The manufacturing of mid-size aircraft with better fuel efficiency. Since 2012, Boeing and Airbus have found markets for their smaller medium- and long-range planes with carriers looking to expand their offerings between smaller cities.

Norwegian Air is hoping their 737s will give them access to new airports. (That's Henrik Ibsen on the tail.)

Norwegian Air is hoping their 737s will give them access to new airports. (That’s Henrik Ibsen on the tail.)

Norwegian Airlines is banking on the addition of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft to increase its route map. The seating configuration can be customized to seat between 100 to 230 seats. “The Max, that’s a single aisle that can fly on routes to secondary cities,” Bjorn Kros, Norwegian’s CEO, told the New York Times. “You will see a lot of low fares and a new segment of people start flying.”

Airlines are also finding smaller cities attractive because of the savings in ground costs. Hotel costs for crew, landing fees, and fuel costs are lower at smaller airports than at the bigger ones. Travelers also save because their costs — like car rental and parking — are lower too.

Airports are also using data about the travel costs of companies in their cities. For example, Hartford, Conn. airport officials showed Aer Lingus how 23 of Hartford’s business were spending $40 million on trans-Atlantic flights every year. So Aer Lingus has begun daily flights to and from Bradley International Airport.

If people can get to their events a few hours faster, rather than traveling an additional two or three hours to fly out of a major airport, everyone wins.

Finally, passengers benefit from these new routes because it’s a lot less hassle when flying from a smaller airport. Security lines move quicker, customs and immigration lines are shorter, and baggage is claimed faster. Who wouldn’t want those benefits if they could get them?

Do you fly out of regional airports or battle your way through the larger ones? Do you have any preferences? Share them in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Arpingstone (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Travel Top Five: Traveling in Comfort

February 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the years, we’ve talked about traveling light, being efficient, and not taking things you can live without. But that doesn’t mean living a spartan, uncomfortable existence, where you can’t wait for your trip to be over. We still want you to be comfortable.

Everyone has personal standards for comfort. For some, it’s their pillow from home, or wearing their favorite jeans. Often, business travelers have certain standards and efficiencies they should maintain, so curling up on the plane in sweatpants with a pillow is probably not a good idea.

Here are five ways you can be more comfortable when you travel, without looking too out of place or sacrificing packing space and efficiency.

Let’s start with shoes. You’ll be on your feet — through security, through the terminal, through the parking lot, and through the lobby to your client — a good bit of the day. The best way to stay comfortable is to invest in comfort that will carry you, literally, through your trip: get a pair of walking shoes. There are plenty of stylish options that look just as professional, and your feet will thank you.
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Travel Top Five: Tips for Traveling Light

February 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The ability to travel light seems to be the golden ring every business traveler is reaching for. Some have the knack for it, while others struggle. Here are a few tips to help you choose what to bring with you on your next trip. For the purposes of this article, we’re assuming you want to avoid baggage fees, skip the luggage carousel, and be in control of your experience from start to finish.

Number one, truly, is plan what you’re going to wear and stick to it. You may think you need an extra outfit for a special occasion, but unless you’re attending a formal event that requires certain attire, you can pretty much wear anything else you’ve planned and it’s going to be sufficient. If you want to be successful at traveling light, take a hard look at what you must have versus what would be nice to have. Then keep the former and leave the latter.

Platinum Magna 2 - International Carry-on Spinner - Ideal for traveling light

Platinum Magna 2 International Carry-on Spinner

Next, learn the art of packing by color family or using neutrals interchangeably. For example, if you know you need to dress warmly where you’re going, choose your favorite sweater that’s appropriate for all the engagements you have. If said sweater is navy, then everything else you pack should coordinate with navy. Creating an entire week’s worth of outfits using black, white, and khaki is another option that lets you mix and match without looking like you’re wearing the same clothes over and over again. Trust us, no one will notice.
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Business Travelers, Beware of Cyber hackers on Planes

February 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems we can find ways to connect with the world, even from 30,000 feet. While flying used to be a no-wifi zone, connectivity is now available on 78 percent of US flights, according to an article on TravelWeekly.com.

This may be good for business travelers, but it can be bad for security while in-flight. According to Richard Blech, CEO of Secure Channels, a cyber defense firm, “The easiest way to look at this is that [wifi] is a public network, and public networks, in general, are not secure…If there is someone on the aircraft that wants to get into the network, they are going to get into the network.”

A man sitting on an airplane wearing a knit tube over his head and his laptop computer. His hands fit into little openings near the laptop.

No, this won’t help.

According to several security experts, something most travelers don’t consider when using onboard wifi is their proximity to others. “You’ve got three to five hours locked in, and everyone’s stationary,” Blech said. “That’s a world of time for a hacker.”

With this in mind, should you avoid logging on while flying? No, but common sense should prevail. Here are some tips for being mindful of a possible cyber threat while en route:
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Would You Ride in a Driverless Uber?

February 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When Uber began testing driverless cars in several cities (and battled with California over its right to do so without a permit) last year, select passengers who wanted to try the experience weren’t the only passengers in the car. That’s because Uber is conducting research and has operators in the vehicles as it tests them in real life scenarios.

As Uber engineers test the automation, several things are proving to be troublesome for the artificial intelligence to interpret. First and foremost, the unpredictability of human drivers makes it challenging for the AI to compensate. For example, crossing over into the left lane to make a right-hand turn is a scenario that does not compute for the software.

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Another quandary is bridges, so the company chose Pittsburgh specifically because of its many bridges, as a way to iron those bugs out. Bridges are difficult for driverless cars to handle, said Uber’s engineering director Raffi Krikorian, because they lack environmental cues that streets have, namely buildings. According to Business Insider, Krikorian said Pittsburgh was the “double black diamond of driving” and he believes conducting research in that city will help the research advance quickly.

Weather is also proving a challenge because snow, for example, obscures lane markings, making navigation tricky. Uber is also finding other challenges from nature during its tests, such as trees. The cars rely on high-definition maps with landmarks to navigate. In Pittsburgh, the images on those maps were taken in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, so the car can’t determine what the new objects on its route are.
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Rental Cars Still Going Strong in Age of Uber

February 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing services continue to grow, it stands to reason that the emergence of these services would negatively affect the rental car industry.

But it turns out it’s not as cut and dried as it may appear.

Avis Car RentalsAccording to car rental industry leaders, the need that rental cars fill for the public is not the same as the one being met by Uber and Lyft. In fact, according to USA Today, Avis Budget Group reported a three percent increase in revenues over the first three quarters of 2016 and Enterprise Holdings saw a 10 percent increase in its airport car rental revenue in 2015.

So, no real disruption here.

The reason for these upward trends is that rental cars and Uber are not an apples-to-apples comparison. According to Neil Abrams, a consultant in the car rental industry, “Typically, auto rental is lumped into the general category of ground transportation, including taxi and livery services. However, whereas taxi and livery are of shorter duration and mileage, the rental customer normally has a different requirement which demands more time and distance.”
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Must-Have Business Travel Apps for 2017

February 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Many business travelers appreciate the ability to plan, organize, and manage their travel with their mobile phone. No more printed boarding passes, maps, and scribbled directions to your next meeting. Everything can be managed on your phone, saving you all kinds of headaches and hassles.

We’ve seen several new travel apps released just in time for the 2017 business travel calendar, and have a few favorites you might want to try before your next trip.

You can use business travel mobile apps to find your way around AmsterdamGoogle Trips uses your browsing history to suggest places you might want to visit. It might feel a little Big Brother-ish, but a helpful brother nonetheless. The free app allows you to use your Gmail accounts offline to plan and organize your travel through one site, and lets you make hotel reservations, book flights, and arrange car rental.

Lonely Planet’s Guides not only offers visually stunning photographs of over 100 cities, it provides an overview of that city, its language, and different budget options. It also provides insights from on-the-ground experts and maps that help you decide what to see, where to eat, and where to sleep. If you like to “travel like you live there,” something we recommend business travelers do to make their trips more interesting, the Lonely Planet guides are a great place to start.
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