5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Pickpocketing Edition

October 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever traveled, especially overseas, you may have run into a variety of scams and cons. In our last post, we talked about different, mostly harmless, scams you may encounter on a trip. This time, thanks to a Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams, we’re going to discuss some of the scams that involved pickpocketing.

1. Train Pickpockets

This is one of the most commonly known pickpocketing methods. Trains are often cramped and crowded. Locals will take advantage of tourists traveling with their duffels or backpacks, and rummage through them without your knowledge, or even the ability to get away from them.

2. The Punctured Tire

sketch "pickpocket" with George Appo...

Sketch “pickpocket” with George Appo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rental cars are usually obviously rentals. Locals will search for them and inconspicuously puncture the tire. They will then come over offering to help. While you are busy with the flat, their accomplice will go through your trunk taking valuables.

3. The Fake Policeman

A policeman (supposedly) approaches you explaining an issue with fake money circulating around. He will demand to inspect your wallet. Once returned, you will notice it quite a bit lighter. You’ve been scammed.

4. The Overly Helpful Local

Cash machines and ATMs can be confusing in a different country. We suggest you just try to figure it out on your own. If a local comes over offering to help while it may seem nice, they are probably memorizing your pin number for when they swipe your wallet later. Better yet, just use a credit card whenever possible, and get the most favorable exchange rate in the first place.

5. The Charity Petition

This scam involves a group of children who often have a disability such as being deaf. They will ask you to sign a petition to help them out. While shoving paper and clipboard in your face, they will touch and grab at you. If this happens to you, you’ve probably been pickpocketed.

Your best line of defense is to keep your money in a special traveler’s belt wallet, something that loops on your belt, but hangs inside your pants. Keep a small amount of money in your front pocket, and then pull more money out of your pouch in the restroom.

Have you ever been pickpocketed, or nearly so? What did you do? How did they do it? Leave a comment, or tell us on our Facebook page.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Payment for Service Edition

October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

People all around the world have come up with some clever ways to con tourists. Tourists are often a target due to having little knowledge of an area, the culture, and the currency. Because of this locals have created interesting ways to make you pay for something you did not want or even take.

We recently found a great infographic on Lifehack.com that showed several different tourist scams and how to avoid them. We wanted to share them with you here, over the next few days.

1. Friendship Bracelet

The friendship bracelet scam is when someone will come up to you and offer a friendship bracelet. They will try to put one on your wrist as if you’re their new best friend, and want you to share in their feelings of warmth. If they succeed, they will demand payment even if you had refused in the first place, and make a scene if you refuse.

2. The Shoe Shiner

Shoe shine

Shoe shine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone will drop their shoe shining brush in front of you and begin to shine your shoe. Afterward, they’ll demand payment for the big favor they did for you. This happened to me in Chicago during a visit — a shoe shiner started cleaning my shoe and then demanded I pay him. I gave him a dollar so there wasn’t a hassle, and I left with one shoe shinier than the other.

3. Woman Selling Rosemary

Rosemary is supposedly a sign of friendship, so an offer of rosemary is like the friendship bracelet scam we mentioned earlier. If a woman offers you rosemary, be aware that she might try to read your fortune. After that, she’ll expect to be paid for her services, and will loudly express her displeasure if you refuse.

4. A Rose for your Girlfriend

If someone were to sell you a rose in front of your girlfriend and you said no, you might have a very upset girlfriend later. Rose sellers are counting on this. The problem is that these roses are extremely overpriced. Once you touch the rose, the’ll demand payment for their single rose. This scam is common at restaurants especially ones with outside seating.

5. A Free Massage

You are laying at the beach when a man or woman comes over offering to give you a massage. They may start to rub your arm to give you a “sample.” No matter how long they did it, they’ll expect to be paid.

In all of these examples, the scam is not that these things they do or don’t have value, it’s the scene that the scammer will make if you refuse payment. While you might be able to argue that the masseuse or the fortune teller didn’t do anything, it’s the scene they’ll cause that creates the problem. It will attract unwanted attention, and may even bring in the police or anger the crowd. It’s best to just say “no thank you” when approached and keep moving.

But if you get caught, hand the person a few dollars — from a small roll of bills you keep separate from your “main stash” — and move on quickly.

Have you ever seen any of these scams or fallen prey to them? How did they turn out? Let us hear from you in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Airline Industry Putting $Millions Into New Terminals

September 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

An airline terminal can be a relaxing place to sit for a moment, after rushing and scrambling with last minute packing. Or it can be stressful with the chaos of other travelers anxious to get home. Airlines are hoping it will be the former, making it a place where more people are willing to spend time, relax, shop, and eat. Many airports are pouring in millions, if not billions, of dollars into renovation projects.

SFO Open House - Thom WatsonWe’ve talked about some of the ways airports are trying to enhance travelers’ experience such as the efficiency of baggage screening and the use of wearable technology. Airports are also revamping the themselves, according to a recent USA Today article.

Examples of the grandiose projects

  • San Francisco International Airport completed a $138 million project that features free wifi and even a yoga room.
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s renovation features kiosks that print boarding passes and luggage tags.
  • The Los Angeles International Airport remade the Tom Bradley International Terminal to let in a lot of natural light through massive windows. It also has an aluminum roof resembling ocean waves.

Enjoyment and productivity for flier

These renovations will enhance both the enjoyment and productivity for the fliers in these areas. Not only is there free wifi for everyone, but there are even work stations and additional power outlets to get work done while you’re waiting. (If your airport doesn’t have additional outlets, here are a few backup battery options.)

Airports are also putting more of their region’s personality into their terminals, adding architectural flair, since it’s the last or first place a flier will see of their city. And they’re adding more and more dining options, including several local restaurants for more of that local “flavor.”

Of course, some people may not appreciate the renovations, because it either means fewer flights during renovation, or more likely, you have to navigate all the construction chaos to get to your gate. Renovations also cost a lot of money, which may mean an increase in ticket prices. And finally, some fliers just don’t want all the extra gadgets or bonuses, so they may not see what all the fuss is about.

But for those of us who travel a lot and sometimes feel like the airport is our second home, these improvements are much needed, much welcomed, and much appreciated. They may be inconvenient at times, but they’re being done to make your flying experience more convenient and stress free.

Photo credit: Thom Watson (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Travelpro Debuts the Crew Executive Choice Business Case Collection (PRESS RELEASE)

September 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Providing the Most Innovative Luggage and Business Cases for Today’s Frequent Business Travelers

Travelpro, the inventor of Rollaboard luggage and a market leader in innovative, high-quality luggage design is pleased to introduce the Crew Executive Choice Business Case Collection. This premium business case line enhances Travelpro’s flagship Crew luggage collection by integrating some highly functional briefcases, backpacks and overnighters into the overall offering. Genuine leather accents and durable fabrics enable the business traveler to travel in confidence with the latest advances in luggage and business cases, all from one compatible product offering.

“The Crew Executive Choice Collection’s attention to detail, confident style and functional efficiency are a reflection of Travelpro’s commitment to its customers and business travelers worldwide,” said Scott Applebee, Vice President of Marketing for the Travelpro family of brands.

Crew Executive Choice Collection

Crew Executive Choice Collection


The Crew Executive Choice Rolling Business Overnighter is an ideal choice for the executive that demands it all: durability, convenience, versatility and a fashionable look that makes a bold statement. An ideal carry-on size for short trips, the Rolling Business Overnighter is built for maximum efficiency with a patented PowerScope Extension handle, which minimizes wobble when fully extended and stops at 42″ ensuring a comfortable roll for users of varying heights. A built-in corduroy, padded pocket protects laptops up to 15.6″ in size, and the business organizer keeps pens, pencils, business cards and keys in place for easy access.

Crew Executive Choice Checkpoint-Friendly Backpack

Crew Executive Choice Checkpoint-Friendly Backpack

The Checkpoint Friendly Computer Backpack is the perfect complement to Travelpro Crew 10 Carry-on luggage. With its one-of-a-kind Quick Loop system, the Backpack can be attached to all existing Travelpro luggage for convenient transport through airport terminals. The Backpack also provides protection against loss and identity theft with an RFID-blocking pocket that keeps all credit cards and passports safe. The highly featured backpack is Checkpoint Friendly, featuring a padded pocket for 15.6″ laptops, plus a tablet pocket and a removable cord pouch for power cables and accessories. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps provide comfort for users of different heights.

Genuine leather handles combined with sturdy nylon fabric make the Checkpoint Friendly Messenger Brief and Checkpoint Friendly Slim Brief, a stylish and damage resistant option for business travelers on the go. Checkpoint friendly design allows the traveler to keep their laptop inside the bag while going through the security x-ray machine at the airport. Each item is equipped with a RFID-blocking security pocket, Quick Loop system, a padded and quilted corduroy pocket that fits a 15.6″ laptop, a separate, padded tablet pocket and a built-in business organizer for quick access storage of key business essentials.

The Business Tote is the ideal case for the female business traveler who wants to combine style and functionality. The tote features a removable padded sleeve for laptops up to 15.6″ and a separate tablet pocket to protect multiple electronic devices safely. A removable cord pouch, RFID-blocking security pocket and business organizer keeps everything organized and safe. Genuine leather straps and trim add a touch of elegance and style.

About Travelpro

For over 25 years, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travelers worldwide. Since transforming the ease of modern day travel with The Original Rollaboard wheeled luggage, Travelpro has been the brand of choice for flight crews and frequent travelers worldwide. Travelpro is dedicated to building a lifelong relationship with its customers by consistently understanding and exceeding their needs. Travelpro was honored to receive the New Product Innovation Award from the Travel Goods Association (TGA) in March 2013 for the revolutionary Platinum Magna luggage collection.

Please visit the Travelpro website for a full list of the latest products and retail locations. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Hotels Adapt Business Centers for Today’s Traveler

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As broadband gets faster, wifi is found in more places, and smartphones can do everything but walk your dog. We’re seeing the world being disrupted, thanks to all this new technology. One place we’re seeing it is in hotel business centers.

While it was an important hub of activity 15 years ago, it’s now that lonely, empty room sitting next to your hotel lobby. There are a few desks with computers and printers. They used to be quite popular, before tablets, laptops, and smartphones sent everyone to their rooms for the night.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites - Paso Robles Business Center

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Paso Robles Business Center

Hotels are realizing a change is in order for the business center. USA Today’s Nancy Trejos wrote an article about different hotels are approaching the business center. Some are getting rid of theirs completely while others like having the space available if a guest needs something. Others are making hotel rooms more “business center-like” with desks, USB outlets, and reachable plugs. Hotel rooms are becoming a workplace, not just a place to sleep, and the hotels are having to adjust their business centers.

As long as a hotel accommodates the needs of their business oriented guests, they’re going to earn more business versus another hotel because they recognize the needs of their target customers. When I visit a new hotel, especially on business, I quickly check the business center and my room. Is the room going to be a help or a hindrance? Will I enjoy working there, or will it be uncomfortable?

I sometimes go to the business center so I can get out of the room and into a place where I can work better. Personally, I’d like it more if a business center was like a coffee shop with a friendly, social atmosphere. I think more people would use it because it’s more of what they are used to.

As hotels look to change their business centers, they need to focus on what their guests are trying to do. If they need access to a printer and fax machine, they may already have that capability, but no longer through a business center. If travelers want a light and enjoyable place to work, the business center should have several small tables and chairs so it can be more of a social setting.

Regardless of what’s happening, business centers are changing as a direct result of new technology that makes traditional business centers obsolete. What are some features you would like to see in your favorite business center? What could you do without? Leave a comment below and share some of your ideas with us.

Photo credit: Holiday Inn Express – Paso Robles, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Seth Godin on Stress-Free Travel for People Who Stress Easily

August 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Some people love to travel and find it very relaxing. It’s another adventure they can’t wait to take. Other people get very stressed, and they’re less interested in the journey than the destination. What if I forget something? Which gate has my flight? Did it change? Where do I get my ticket? What about security?

On of our favorite marketing authors, Seth Godin, came up with a witty list of anecdotes called “Self Assurance Checklist for the Anxious Traveler.”

Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007

Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We wondered if some of his points may be a little far-fetched — ship your favorite pillow to your destination ahead of time — but we all know people for whom this would be a very reassuring and important detail. They want to be sure of a good night’s sleep, and they don’t want a crick in their neck from sleeping on an under-stuffed and overused hotel pillow.

Godin makes points about planning, parking, and packing. Research the area around the takeoff airport, the landing airport, and the hotel in case you forgot to pack something or need to kill time. He also recommends taking a photo of where you parked and emailing it to a friend, in case you forget where you left your car.

The last suggestion may seem to be a bit much since you could just as easily look at the photo once you return to the parking lot, but it doesn’t hurt for that extra step of preparation in case you lost your phone or it died.

When it comes to packing, lay out the clothes you want to take a few days before the flight, and see if they’ll all fit into your luggage. If it doesn’t, eliminate what you can until it does. This way you know everything fits and that it’s all packed and ready to go.

Traveling does not have to be stressful, even for the most anxious of travelers. If you know you’re going to be nervous about your trip, and want to make sure you have all the bases covered, read Seth Godin’s list a few times, and take flight.

Share any tips that you use to reduce stress when traveling.

Bring This, Not That: Charging Cables and Extension Cords

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you seen the new cell phone commercials that show travelers and their phones hugging the walls while they try to power up their battery hogging devices? Have you ever been one of those wall huggers? It may get worse, thanks to the TSA’s new rules that require devices to be able to power up at checkpoints.

This is going to be a bigger problem, as most airports seem to have only one outlet for the entire terminal, although some airlines, like Delta, are adding more power outlets to their gates. Even so, there are still a limited number of outlets to use. And half the people using them are watching Netflix on their iPads, when you’ve got important work to get finished.

Pivot Power GeniusThis is where a charging cable and extension cord may come in handy. We’re not referring to those bulky beige utility-style surge protector extension cords. There are smaller more compact and flexible options out there, like the Pivot Power Genius available at ThinkGeek.com or other electronics stores.

Imagine pulling one of these out of your bag and asking someone nearby to plug it in. What cranky flight-delayed person would say no? They may not be any happier, but you may brighten a couple other people’s days.

The Pivot Power is just one option out there. There are hand crank generators, portable hydrogen fuel cell generators (no, seriously), and even Tony Stark’s Iron Man Mark V Armor Suitcase Mobile Fuel Cell. And of course, even a 3-in-1 splitter and 1 foot extension cord would let you share a plug with two new friends.

An extension cord is not only convenient in airports but also for hotels. Most hotels have made it so outlets are easily accessible and plentiful. However, if you happen to book a hotel that hasn’t been updated in the last 20 years, the extension cord can save a lot of hassle. You may also run into problems if a hotel’s desk lamp plug doesn’t accommodate your bulky charger block.

Now that we depend on all these electronic devices, it’s just as important to be able to power them up conveniently and quickly. Now that the TSA’s rules are changing, and we’re dependent on our phones and tablets, don’t leave yourself without an option to power up.

TSA’s New Smartphone Rules May Cause Bigger Problems

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to new proposed rules regarding dead mobile phones and tablets, many travelers are worried about what could happen if their portable electronics die before they get through airport security.

The new rules require that all electronic devices must be able to be powered up at security, after it was revealed that Al Qaeda has figured out how to disguise bombs in electronic devices without detection. Currently, the only flights affected are those going into the United States, but not out of the country, or within it.

The Controversy

Cell phone and battery charger

Cell phone and battery charger

What happens when someone cannot power up his or her devices? According to an article by Conde Nast, the dead devices would be held at the airport or could be shipped to the owner’s house. If the devices are held at the airport, where would they be stored and what kind of security would oversee this storage? Many people have expressed concern at possibly being without their phones because of a dead battery, especially when their power cable is in their luggage.

The Costs

If the devices are to be shipped to the owner’s house, this method could be quite costly, especially for travelers returning to the US. Depending on how the policy is enacted and enforced, there could be a lot of confiscated devices to process.

One suggestion we’ve seen lately is to install electrical outlets and chargers at security stations. This means airports would have to relocate power supplies and install plugs. Then they would have to allow time for devices to charge enough to power up. However, this would solve the problem for travelers whose mobile device died in the airport. Another possibility would be charging stations outside security, where people can charge for several minutes before entering the line.

Will This Create Backups?

On the other hand, what kind of problems could be created as people fumble with dead phones, trying to charge them at the new stations, or even arranging them to have sent back home. And, what if you miss your flight? Though the new rules are for safety and security, the implementation process could cause quite a dilemma for many travelers if it’s not planned and implemented well.

Word to the wise: regardless of where you’re traveling, charge all your devices before heading out to catch your flight.

Gatwick Airport Tests Hi-Tech Security and Passenger Technology

August 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)

It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.

Speeding Up Bag Check

English: Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-i...

Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-in concourse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.

EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.

Automated Security

One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.

Iris Scanning Technology

The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.

A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.

According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.

What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.

How to Cope With The Worst Travel Scenarios

August 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Not to diminish any travel woes you’ve experienced — trust me, we’ve all been through enough horrible delays and cancellations to know how frustrating they are — but after reading a recent Budget Travel blog post, I’m grateful for the low drama factor of my travel mishaps.

If you thought having your flight canceled and being stuck overnight is the worst it can get, think again. Here are a couple of the worst-case scenarios I hope you’ll never have to face.

Getting Arrested in a Foreign Country

English: Chancery of the Manila American Embas...

Chancery of the Manila American Embassy. Official photo from THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S REGISTER OF CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT PROPERTY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve all heard horror stories about winding up in a Thai prison…well, for some it’s a reality.

Cultural differences can sometimes translate into legal differences, too — or maybe you’ve just behaved very badly — but your first step in the right direction if you’ve gotten into legal trouble is to call the embassy. They may not be able to get you off the hook right away, but the embassy will at least help ensure that you have legal counsel.

It would also behoove you to check out the State Department’s website for insight into the customs and laws of the area you’re traveling to.

Finding Yourself in the Middle of a Natural Disaster

This actually happened to me back in the ’90s: During a sales meeting in Key West, Fla., a hurricane rolled through during the night. There was a lot of wind and rain and the power went out, but we were otherwise unaffected.

If you find yourself in a more severe situation, the best thing to do is listen to local authorities. Also be sure to contact family and loved ones as soon as possible to ensure they know you’re all right.

If you have access to the Internet, your local embassy’s website is a great resource for emergency personnel, hospitals and the like — but the Budget Travel article recommends finding a major hotel if you can’t get online and need to know what to do beyond following the authorities’ instructions.

Our favorite tip: Register your travel abroad with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program — we’d never heard of it until we read the Budget Travel blog post, but it’s a great idea and sounds easy to implement.

Have you experienced one of these nightmare travel scenarios? How did you react, and how did the situation turn out? Leave a comment and tell your story.

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