USTA Study Shows Open Skies Is Crucial to US Airlines, Economy

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Travel Pulse discusses a study commissioned by the US Travel Association on the Open Skies Agreements. These agreements foster open international policies regarding travel. The study says they not only help the U.S. air travel economy, they help the U.S. economy in general.

Some major U.S. carriers recently challenged the agreements. The recent influx of some Persian Gulf airlines, among others, has brought more competition into the U.S. market, which doesn’t thrill American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.

Delta Boeing 747-400

Delta Boeing 747-400 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When the Big Three first embarked on their lobbying campaign against Open Skies, they had our attention because they claimed that their position was about protecting U.S. jobs,” said USTA president and CEO Roger Dow. “But it took about 30 seconds of reflection to realize that breaking those agreements is likely to have terrible consequences for U.S. employment, and now we have research in hand conclusively illustrating that.”

Since there are now three large legacy carriers in the U.S., they’ve developed a bit of a stronghold on the U.S. market. There’s less competition and therefore, looking from the consumer standpoint, if some of these other airlines come in, maybe we’ll get better fares.

The article says that research indicates that the Open Skies Agreements are very much pro-traveler and that these agreements support competition.

“The travel community weighs every policy proposal against a very basic set of criteria: is it pro-competition, pro-growth and pro-traveler? The Big Three’s move against Open Skies epic-fails every part of that test,” said Dow.

The challenge seems to be focusing mainly on Persian Gulf airlines that fly into the U.S., but the study, which was conducted by Oxford Economics, indicates that the airlines cited actually pump quite a bit of money into the U.S. economy.

4 Tips to Never Losing Your Luggage Again

August 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in U.S. News travel notes that lost airline luggage has become something of a rarity. You have a less than 1 percent chance of losing your luggage. However, it’s still worth your while to make efforts to keep yourself out of that 1 percent. Here’s how.

Give the airline plenty of time to deal with your baggage by arriving early to your flight and not booking yourself into connecting flights that have extremely tight windows. If you have to rush to go from one flight to the next, so does your luggage, and the baggage handlers may not be as fast as you. (Plus, you can save yourself the headache and anxiety of racing to make that next flight.)

A baggage handler unloading bags from the moto...

A baggage handler unloading bags from the motorized ramp underneath an recently-landed airplane in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make sure your bag is clearly identifiable. You can do this as easily as tying a colorful sock or ribbon to your handle. Next, avoid putting anything of high value into it. Placing a Monet painting into your checked luggage is a great way to ensure someone steals it en route. If you need high-value items at your destination, or want to take them home, have them shipped via courier and get the replacement insurance.

You can also add a tracking device to your luggage. These days, such devices are easy to come by and using one is a great way to better ensure you’ll be reunited with your bag after your plane lands. The devices use GPS tracking and your smartphone to make sure you find your luggage, so at the very least you can tell the airline representative where your bag is.

And finally, know your rights when it comes to lost luggage. There are a lot of rules around lost luggage and many of them benefit the airlines (for instance, there is a list of items that they will not replace, including that Monet painting). Know them before you ever leave the house, so you know what you can and can’t take, should and shouldn’t have, and what you can do to protect yourself if you ever become one of the 1 percent.

How do you keep track of your luggage when you fly? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Airplane Seats Really ARE Getting Smaller

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel writer Peter Greenberg is confirming what we’ve believed all along: airplane seats are getting smaller, as is the space between them. Airlines have found ways to incorporate lighter, slimmer seats, which allows them to pack more seats onto the planes.

Worse yet, they’re even shrinking the size of the airplane bathrooms.

A seat graphic on a Song airplane.

A seat graphic on a Song airplane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many carriers are adding the extra seats to shorter flights, although that is certainly not the case across the board.

One trend we’ve noted in conjunction with the smaller seats is that airlines are offering seat upgrades (so-called “comfort seats”) for folks who are willing to pay extra to sit in a seat that’s a tad roomier or comfortable. Let’s be clear that we are not talking about first class seats. These seats are another option between a standard seat and a first class seat. This is one of the many ways that airlines are increasing their add-on income.

Recently, one of our employees flew on an older plane to Europe and said the he has never sat in a seat with less legroom. He couldn’t even put the arm rest down between himself and his wife. The airline offered comfort seats, which cost $75 to $80 more for the 11 hour flight. He was on the aisle but was crammed into a small space. He handled some of the stress of the flight by moving around and getting up to walk around the plane whenever possible.

One way to make sure this horrible fate doesn’t happen to you is to check SeatGuru.com as a way to check out your seats on a particular plane before you book, so you can buy an upgrade if it looks like the standard available seat is an extremely tight fit or their is a electrical box underneath your feet. You can enter your information and a seat map for your plane will pop up along with comfort recommendations for the various seats.

Are you willing to pay for seat upgrades? What’s your minimum threshold where you’ll put up with the discomfort before you pay the fee? Let us hear from you here or on our Facebook page.

Why Do Some Hotels Smell So Good?

August 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

There is a new movement afoot — anose? — in the hotel world. Some hotels now include a special scent inside the hotel as part of their branding, says a recent article in Hotel Chatter.

The article focuses mainly on the scents offered in the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Hotel Indigo.

English: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve found in our own travels that it’s noticeable in these hotels. It’s something they do a lot of research on, and the scents that we’ve noticed have been very pleasant indeed.

A distinctive scent gives guests a sense that the hotel has good air quality and is very clean. It can also give guests a stronger sense of faith in hotels where a pleasant scent is part of the overall ambiance. It can even give a feeling of being in a more luxurious atmosphere.

Each IHG’s hotel brands has a signature scent. Hotel Indigo changes the scents up on a regular basis but the other two keep to the same branded scent.

“When beginning the process of determining a scent for a hotel, key factors that play into consideration are the hotel’s location and the property’s overall theme, “said Andrew Gajary, general manager of the InterContinental New York Times Square. “Based on these elements, we then work with experts in the field to bring to life those characteristics through aromas, which trigger guests’ olfactory system (also known as sense of smell). Being a modern midtown hotel with a strong environmental focus, our custom scent pulls together aromas, including various floral, to create an environment that is relaxing (contrary to the busy New York streets), welcoming (ensuring guests feel at home) and modern (clean and fresh).”

What are some of your favorite scents? What would you think if your favorite hotel adopted a special scent? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Smaller Bags versus Larger Luggage

July 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When packing for a flight, travelers don’t always want to haul around one large bag, so they opt for carrying a few smaller bags instead. For example, we’ve known women who carry their cosmetics in a separate bag, as well as a small rollaboard or spinner, and a briefcase or purse.

This is fine for car travel, but what about plane travel? Is it better to consolidate all your luggage into one larger bag or carry some of the items you might ordinarily pack on the plane with you. Should you carry the cosmetics bag, which is about the size of a small tote, or figure out how to pack it with your clothes in a large suitcase?

Tpro Bold 2 Duffel - Open

The new Tpro Bold 2 Rolling Duffel — you can fit a lot more in here than a couple small bags can hold.

Let’s assume our female passenger doesn’t have room in her 20″ carry-on bag, so she’ll have to carry her cosmetics bag. Remember, airlines allow one carry-on and one personal bag, which includes a purse or briefcase. If she’s already got a personal bag, she either needs to make room in the carry-on bag, or get a larger piece of luggage and consider checking her bag.

So which is her better choice?

We should first look at the economics. If you take a larger suitcase, most airlines will charge for a checked bag fee. That’s one decision that has to be made up front. The whole reason we recommend carry-on bags is to avoid those fees.

Next, consider security, trust, and convenience. If our passenger has her medications, she absolutely won’t want to be separated from her bag. It’s also nice to have access to your toothbrush and something to wash your face and freshen up in flight, or to use the minute you get off the plane.

She’ll also need to think about how much she’s packing, and how long her trip is going to be. This is where packing fewer pieces that are more versatile, in order to create more outfits, pays off. Or rolling clothes instead of folding them.

Some people also like smaller bags they can put underneath the seat so they can access certain items during the flight. If you split your luggage between two carry-on items, you don’t have to worry about waiting to pick up your bag after the flight, and you can get important items during the flight.

However, juggling multiple items can definitely be inconvenient. It can be nice to have the airline take care of everything, which can be great especially when you have a layover during which you would have to keep all your luggage together.

Ultimately, this is a personal choice. Are you happy with a bigger bag that may require baggage fees? Or do you want to avoid fees, so you travel light, roll your clothes, and make sure everything is as efficient as possible to keep it all in your two carry-on items? Pick the method that suits you and your travel preferences.

What do you do? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Huggies Wipes Versus Purse Tissues or TP

July 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

How do we put this delicately? There are times when you need. . . personal hygiene items. Maybe you have babies and toddlers who need to be cleaned up during a diaper change. Or maybe you’re going to be out in the wilderness for several days. Or you’re one of those moms who’s über-prepared for everything, and your purse holds so much stuff, it should have been in a Harry Potter movie.

So the question becomes what should you carry? A small packet of tissues, moist baby wipes like Huggies wipes, or even a small roll of toilet paper?

There’s really only one choice: baby wipes.

English: Wet wipe (2 Thai models)

Wet wipe (2 Thai models) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every young parent knows about the importance of baby wipes. Not only are they great for wiping up baby, but they’re really useful everywhere else. Most parents we know swear by Huggies brand, but there are plenty of other great brands out there too.

My wife and I have a daughter, and we always have some wipes on hand, which we use for a lot of things. We can wipe down tables and chairs when we go to a restaurant, and I’ve used them to wipe up spills on our clothing.

I know someone who used to go to Canada on week-long fishing trips, and he said they would pack a box of Huggies wipes, rather than a lot of TP and paper towels. They could clean anything, especially food stains on shirts, plus anything else they might need them for.

Even if you don’t have kids or if your kids are older, the wipes are still worth carrying, because they can be used for so many different purposes while traveling. Anyone whose gotten used to having wipes available knows their usefulness goes way beyond cleaning up a dirty child.

When space and weight are an issue, wipes are a good choice. They’re more compact, they’re already moistened and they can clean a lot of things. And if you need regular tissues, a small pack in your purse or briefcase make a great backup.

What do you carry for personal cleaning? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Bring This, Not That: Refillable Water Bottles versus Buying Water

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Ever since the TSA has not allowed more than 3.4 liquid ounces to pass an airport security checkpoint, travelers have dealt with the high prices that are charged for beverages, like bottled water and soda in the convenience and magazine stores at the airport.

But if you’re a water drinker, you can always pack an empty bottle with you to fill. It’s a good way to save money, but it also brings with it the possibility of picking up some germs from the drinking fountain. We tend to recommend against filling your bottle at the drinking fountain, but it’s definitely a personal decision based on how much of a germaphobe you are.

Drinking water fountain

Drinking water fountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, more airports have begun installing water bottle filling stations, which can be presumed to be cleaner as they’re set up in a way so germy mouths can’t come into contact with them. And if you’re concerned about the environment, packing a refillable bottle can be a great way to make a difference as water bottles do create a lot of waste.

Of course, you may want to consider whether you want to carry a large, bulky refillable water bottle with you. If you’re traveling light, try to stick with disposable bottles, so you don’t have to buy a bottle only to lose it on the second day of the trip.

Finally, consider how long you have to wait for your plane. Most flights still offer beverage service, which means you can get relief in a fairly short time. So if your airport stay is going to be short, you may not need to buy a drink at all. Just wait until you’re up in the air and guzzle down some complimentary water.

What are your hydration habits at the airport? Do you buy your own water or soda, drink at a fountain, or just fill up on the plane? Leave us a comment or head over on our Facebook page and let us hear from you.

How Millennials Are Transforming the Travel Industry

July 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A week or so ago, we talked about how Baby Boomers are traveling more and more, changing the face of leisure travel. But as the largest demographic group in the US, Millennials are making their own voices heard as millennial travelers.

Road Warrior Voices recently published an recent article by Jessica Festa, who self-identifies as a millennial traveler. She notes the image people have of Millennials as young folks is starting to age out, along with Millennials themselves.

Right now, Millennials fall between ages 16 – 27. Older people on this spectrum are getting both families and fancy jobs. Millennials are growing up and earning money to spend on travel.

English: beach () Русский: Пицунда, пляж ()

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it turns out, Millennials are also a bit more frugal than other groups. A November 2014 survey by Resonance indicated that Millennials spend considerably less per trip than the average U.S. traveler: about $888 per trip versus the average traveler’s $1,347.

This can be seen as part of the millennial mindset that seeks out happiness rather than focusing just on money. Millennials tend to seek meaningful connections when they travel, which is forcing some companies to offer more meaningful experiences, but for less money, which is increasing the popularity of volunteer vacations and ecotours.

The same survey found that Millennials travel more than other age groups and have a greater tendency to take group vacations.

Although there’s another stereotype that says Millennials use social media to the point where they don’t even enjoy being in the moment, the fact is they often use social media to form closer connections to the places they traveling to. (Which should be a hint to travel destinations to be on social media themselves, in order to grow those relationships and encourage return visitors.)

They also use social media to plan their trips and find deals while they’re out on the open road. They’re also not averse to staying with complete strangers as proven by the couch surfing and AirBNB trend. They’re certainly not the only folks using these technologies, of course.

How about it, Millennials? What kinds of things do you do when you travel? Leave us a comment, or visit our Facebook page on your mobile phone and let us hear from you.

Delta Promises 20 Minute Baggage Reclaim To Domestic Passengers

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the worst things about airline travel — other than having the person in front of you lean their seat back on your knees — is waiting for your bag to arrive on the baggage carousel. While we normally encourage people to take carry-on bags, that’s not always an option.

So when Delta Airlines said they would deliver domestic passengers’ bags to the luggage carousel within 20 minutes, we took notice.

Their new policy went into effect in February, and although it was originally just a trial run, they’ve since made it a permanent policy.

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The feedback from travelers was positive, and it has been a great way for Delta to differentiate itself among the pack. The established airlines tend to be fairly similar, so this has been a good way for Delta to stand out and get some positive buzz.

Knowing your bags will be delivered within a short, 20 minute window makes the baggage retrieval process a lot more bearable and may encourage more people to check bags, something the airline would prefer as they get more fees and fewer headaches than dealing with the carry-on luggage nightmares.

Plus, it’s a good way to encourage travelers to join Delta’s frequent flier program, because members will get a 2, 500 point bonus if their wait for luggage exceeds the 20 minutes.

It’s an interesting promise, and we definitely like it. We wonder how many bonus miles they’ll hand out, especially in the beginning. It offers security and comfort to passengers who may feel that airlines are mainly out to gouge money out of them through new fees.

Will you take advantage of Delta’s new 20 minute policy? Leave us a comment or head over on our Facebook page and discuss it over there.

Travel Goes Boom in 2015 as Retirees Stay Active

July 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the dream of many retirees to travel more once they finally leave the workforce, and it looks like it’s happening.

A recent article in the Huffington Post discusses the “booming” market as an aging population with expendable income is on the move.

They’re going by themselves, they’re going to warmer climates, they’re going more frequently than they have in the past, and they’re planning on traveling a lot in 2015. According to an AARP study, a decent number of boomers plan to take four or five vacations in 2015. And nearly half the people they surveyed plan to travel more this year than in previous years.

Free Travel-Shirt @ Berlin-Tegel Airport

Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further, many of those boomers who are still employed plan to work while traveling and not even take vacation time while they’re on the move. The upsurge in the ability to work remotely has been a great boon to those who plan to travel more during their working careers. And it’s something the younger Boomers and older Generation Xers are comfortable with.

Another number expected to rise is the number of people taking solo trips. An AARP survey from last year indicated that 37 percent of adults 45 and older took solo trips in the preceding two years and 80 percent of those surveyed planned to travel on their own in 2015.

Solo travel is more popular with people whose spouses have passed or who are divorced. And there are travel companies seeking the singles market, looking to help those who want to travel alone get out and about, something that has not always been the case in the past.

Despite the upsurge in travel, most of the folks responding to these surveys said that cost is a high priority when traveling so older travelers are looking to save money while on the move, just as are their younger counterparts.

What about you? For those of you who are retired, or nearing retirement age, are you going to travel more? Let us hear from you and leave a comment here or over on our Facebook page.

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