Top Five Little-Known Travel Apps for Business Travelers

December 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When a traveler who has logged 2 million air miles and stayed 1,000 nights in a hotel offers his top five travel apps, you listen. Thanks to Maurice Freedman for sharing his “Swiss Army Knife suite of travel apps” to help all of us amateurs experience travel like a pro.

Freedman’s first app is stayconnect. It may seem like a small luxury, but being able to control the television in your hotel room without touching the remote could save you from picking up some unwanted germs. It doesn’t work in all hotels, but the 600,000 where it does makes it a worthy addition to your phone. (Plus it may help you change TV stations at a restaurant or coffee shop.)

Mobile phone being used by a woman with red painted fingernails, accessing her travel appsYou don’t have to depend on the hotel’s concierge for restaurant recommendations or to get reservations if you have the OpenTable app. You can search by location, cuisine, or price, and reserving a table is simple as pie. You can book and cancel without penalty too, which is great when your plans change on a dime. The only downside to this app is that not all dining establishments use it.

Don’t want to leave your hotel room to eat because you’re already in your comfy clothes for the night? Room service is not your only option. With Seamless, you can scroll through over 12,000 delivery menus for restaurants with 80+ kinds of cuisines, pay online (including tip), and then sit back and wait for your food to come right to your door.

If your phone comes with a weather app, you may question Freedman’s next recommendation. But does your weather app tell you when it’s going to rain in your specific location and how long you can expect that precipitation to inconvenience you? If you purchase Dark Sky, you won’t be caught without an umbrella when you need it, and you can set it to notify you at a specific time each day so that you know whether to expect blue or cloudy skies.

Texting is great until you have to leave the country. Then how do you communicate if your phone plan doesn’t cover international travel? What’sApp is your perfect solution. It works regardless of carrier or phone type and over one BILLION people enjoy its free service. All you need is wifi or a data plan to talk, text, or share locations.

What are your favorite little-known travel apps? What have you been using on your most recent travels? What’s the most esoteric-but-useful one on your mobile phone? Share your best travel apps with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Skeeze (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Five Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

December 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Those who travel regularly know that maintaining their routines helps them be at their best. If you’re an infrequent traveler, here are the top five things you need to do while on your business trip to come home as healthy as you left.

Eat right. When we’re away from home, we’re out of our comfort zone. We’re with people we don’t know well, and we’re navigating a different city and its unique dynamics. While food is often equated with comfort, don’t buy into the myth. If anything, try to eat healthier while you’re away from home than you do when you’re at home. Don’t eat the heaviest meal, just because it’s on the company’s dime. Eating fruits and vegetables will help your digestion and keep you from feeling uncomfortable or run down.

Avoid alcohol. Not to be a killjoy, but we all know that consuming alcohol decreases your mental sharpness and gives your body one more thing to try to process while out of its normal rhythms.

A hotel gym is a great way to work out and help stay healthy.

The gym at the Onego Palace Hotel (Intourist Hotel Group) in Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia, Russia)

Exercise. Keep doing it. If you belong to a fitness chain or franchise at home, you can usually go to the same one in whatever city you’re visiting without paying any more. If you work out at home, use the hotel’s gym or pack whatever you need to work out in your room. No need to lose momentum just because you’re out of town. If you’re not an exerciser, consider making choices that will increase your physical activity, like taking the stairs to and from the lobby of your hotel or office, getting outside for a walk at lunch or after dinner. Even these small periods of movement will help alleviate stress and stretch muscles often kinked from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed or sitting too long in a meeting.

Get enough sleep. Be sure you get enough rest each night. While getting enough shut-eye in a hotel can be difficult, give yourself the best possible odds by doing a few things. Don’t eat too late. Late-night digestion can keep you from getting into REM sleep. Don’t stare at screens. Turning off your devices and the television 30 minutes before you retire will signal your body to begin shutting down for the day. Use a white noise generating app to drown out the unfamiliar sounds of your environment (or just the loud blower on the heater) to help you go to sleep.

Stay hydrated. If you’re not in the habit of drinking water throughout the day, pick up a bottle and make yourself drink it. Flying dehydrates us, and when we don’t give our systems enough water, they just don’t function as well as they need to. Coffee, soda, and fruit juice may be liquids, but they’re not as good as water when it comes to proper hydration, so stick with the H2O as much as possible.

All these tips are really just common sense, but it will take some planning to incorporate them into your trip. Be good to yourself and treat yourself well by trying to stay healthy. Life isn’t all about work, and you want to stay healthy for the downtime you’ll have earned by the time you get home.

How do you stay healthy when you’re traveling? Do you have any special strategies or tricks? Tell us about them in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Онега Палас (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Four Tips for Finding Cheaper Flights

December 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re trying to keep your travel budget under, well, budget, there are always ways of finding cheaper flights than the ones you might normally take.

1. Book early. While this may seem like a no-brainer, many people are hesitant to lock in a fare too far ahead of their planned departure. The best prices are typically found when you book 21 days before you want to leave. If you can plan three months out or if you don’t feel like you can commit until 30 days beforehand, choose whichever timeline works for you and stick to it.

If you’re skeptical about this, trust the math. Google Flights and Kayak are two online platforms that have built-in algorithms that use historical data to predict a flight’s price. While not foolproof, it’s more accurate than trusting your brain to remember all the numbers you’re comparing.

JetBlue Airways is one of your options for cheaper flights.2. Be flexible. Since we’re talking about looking ahead and planning your trip, could you leave on a Monday instead of a Sunday? You might be surprised to learn that doing so could save you money. Also, flying in and out of a different airport than the one closest to you may seem like more of an inconvenience than a perk, but again, do the math. If a group of five needs to get somewhere and you could save $30/ticket by flying out of an alternative airport, that savings could be applied to a hotel night or car rental or meals. When you search for your cheaper flights, leave it up to the computer to find the lowest prices and let it dictate your schedule.

3. If you have more time than money, you could also save by booking a connecting flight instead of choosing to fly nonstop. Flying at times that aren’t peak, such as early morning or later in the evening may also result in savings. These especially work to your advantage if you’re flying to an earlier time zone, say Atlanta to Los Angeles. Atlanta is three hours ahead of LA, so if it’s 8 p.m. in Atlanta, it’s only 5 p.m. in California. You’ll arrive around 10 p.m., adjust to the time difference while you sleep, and wake ready to work the next day.

4. While you’re comparing destinations, compare carriers as well. While Spirit’s no-frills travel experience is well documented, other discount airlines such as JetBlue, Southwest, and other regional airlines could offer a better deal than one of the major carriers. While you’re comparing, don’t just take the price from the airline’s website; use at least one third-party platform, such as Priceline, Google Flights, or Travelocity. Beware, though! Read the fine print to make sure there aren’t hidden fees that would cost you all the savings you’ve worked so hard to find.

Traveling can be expensive, but with some savvy planning and saving, it can be less costly and more enjoyable than you think.

How do you find your cheaper flights? Do you have any special strategies or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Eric Salard (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Do You Live in a State that Will Require Alternate ID to Fly in 2020?

December 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you live in one of 24 states, your state-issued driver’s license may not get you on a flight, even for domestic travel, starting on October 10, 2020, and you may need an alternate ID like a passport.

In 2005, Congress passed The REAL ID Act, which was the standardization of the nation’s issuing of state identification to limit terrorism. Although it has been 12 years since its enactment, and the latest extension deadline expired October 10, 2017, nearly half of the United States are still grappling with how to comply with the mandated standards for issuing state IDs.

The only way around this law is if you have a valid passport or other valid alternate ID; then you’re able to fly, regardless of your state’s compliance with REAL ID.

A REAL ID sign at a U.S. airport. If you don't have a REAL ID, you'll need an alternate ID instead, like a passport.This could impact millions of Americans’ access to air travel is because the legislation makes it illegal for those who operate federal facilities to accept non-compliant, state-issued identification to access federal agencies, enter nuclear power plants, or board federally regulated aircraft. This means that the TSA cannot allow those with non-compliant IDs to board federally regulated airplanes because their states have not met the Act’s “minimum standards.”

Those minimum standards require states to incorporate technology into its cards that makes them nearly impossible to counterfeit. States must also prove that they conduct background checks on all personnel who issue driver’s licenses on its behalf. These standards have raised issues in many states about personal privacy. But with the final stage of implementation affecting residents’ ability to travel by air, most states have scrambled to submit applications for extensions.

The final stage of implementation begins January 22, 2018. States that are already in compliance will not be impacted by this date, and those states with an active or “under review” extension won’t be penalized.

If you want to know if you live in one of the 24 states that are not compliant, check out this article in the Washington Post. If you don’t want to hold a federally approved ID, there are 15 other forms of alternate ID that TSA will accept when you travel.

Are you in a state that is already compliant, or are you in one of the 24 affected states? How will you cope if your state doesn’t comply before the deadline? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

This is a compliance map of all states as of November 7, 2017. Some states still require an alternate ID.

This is a compliance map of all states as of November 7, 2017. Light green states have asked for an extension, dark green are in compliance.

Photo credit (REAL ID airport sign): Cory Doctorow (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)
Photo credit (REAL ID compliance map): Kurykh (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Consider Joining an Independent Airport Lounge, Even for a Day

November 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You may be one of those travelers who lingers by the door to an airline’s lounge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the quiet, serene atmosphere you’ve heard others boast about. If you’re not a frequent-enough traveler to gain entry based on your status, did you know there are independently operated airport lounges that you can join through an annual membership program, or even just for the day?

While airline lounges have been around for 70 years, the independent environments have only recently begun to populate larger US airports. They fulfill the idea that some airlines are too small to operate lounges of their own, and there are always travelers willing to pay for some privacy, food, and beverages.

The cost can be as low as $25 for a day pass or as much as $50, so how do you determine whether the experience is worth the price? Here’s a list of things to consider:

The Gardermoen Airport Lounge in Oslo, Norway

The Gardermoen Airport Lounge in Oslo, Norway

  1. How long am I going to stay in this airport? If the answer is more than an hour and you’d like to eat, drink (free alcohol is served), work, or even nap, the lounge might be a better deal than finding a restaurant for food and making room for your laptop on the table.
  2. Do I need a quiet place to make an important call? If a deal is on the line and you have crucial business to discuss, do you really want to do that in the waiting room while the gate attendant is making announcements? Besides free wifi, these independent lounges offer laptops, sometimes printers, and dedicated workspaces. If you are on your way to visit a client, the use of a private restroom that may have a shower might be just what you need to make the best impression when you arrive.
  3. I mentioned food above, and let me provide you with some casual cost analysis here. The cost of an average cocktail at an airport bar is easily $10, and these lounges offer more than just peanuts and pretzels. The complementary (sometimes hot) food could constitute a light meal, tiding you over until you get home or to your final destination. If there’s a weather delay, you won’t be standing in line with everybody else, juggling your carry-on and other items while trying to get a bite to eat. You’ll be able to actually eat at a table or at a bar, instead of balancing your meal on your knees in that crowded waiting area.

The leading US provider of these independent lounges is The Club, with locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Seattle-Tacoma airports. Day passes are $40, and, as with all airport lounges, you must show a boarding pass for same-day departure to enter.

Most travelers gain access to both carrier-operated and independent lounges through Priority Pass. Its arrangements with over 1,000 establishments make it the leader in the lounge membership business. Priority Pass offers three levels of membership: standard: $99/year with unlimited visits at $27 each; standard plus: $249/year with 10 free visits plus additional visits at $27 each; and prestige: $399/year for unlimited visits. Priority Pass has locations available at 21 US airports.

They say membership has its privileges, and that’s certainly true if you hold specific credit cards. With an American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ritz-Carlton, and MasterCard Black, your Priority Pass membership is included.

To lounge or not to lounge? That may still be your question. But with this information,  hopefully you may have your answer.

Are you a lounge member? Do you partake, or are you thinking about it? Share your stories in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: TravelingOtter (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Stash Your Bags With this London-based Startup, CityStasher

November 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But little did Matt Majewski know that his need to store his suitcases at a friend’s house while taking a long weekend to attend a friend’s bachelor party would become the seed for an up-and-coming niche business, CityStasher.

Majewski’s friend (and fellow founder) Anthony Collias told him he’d happily store his bags for the weekend, but he’d have to charge him. That tongue-in-cheek quip was a moment of realization: perhaps other travelers were in need of short-term storage for their bags as well, and CityStasher was born.

If it’s your last day in England and you want to tour the sites of London before you catch your flight but after you’ve checked out of your hotel or Airbnb, you certainly don’t want to lug your luggage from the Tube to the Tower of London to the London Eye all day. CityStasher allows travelers to leave their luggage in a locked room at one of its 60 StashPoints around the city.

CityStasher home page screenshot

CityStasher’s StashPoints, located in independent businesses and other establishments that boast long hours of operation, are vetted to meet the following criteria: they have close-captioned TV surveillance, a locked room for the bags, and have long hours of operation for easy drop-off and pick-up. Each bag is insured for 750 pounds, close to $1,000 USD. The cost to stash your bag? 4 pounds for the first 3 hours, 6 pounds for 3 to 24 hours, and an additional 5 pounds for every 24 hours after that.

Proprietors have been incentivized to become storage sites by the prospect of redeploy an existing asset into a profit sharing investment. The StashPoint operators do have the right to search the luggage in the presence of its owner before attaching the security tag to the bag and agreeing to store it.

According to Jacob Wedderburn-Day, the company’s third founder, CityStasher hasn’t had any incidents with the contents of any of the nearly 25,000 bags it has stored since it began operating in 2015.

CityStasher operates in 18 cities across the United Kingdom, and in Amsterdam, after being sought out by a business there. The company is seeking investors to bring CityStasher to popular weekend destination cities across Europe.

Would you pay to store your baggage for a few hours before a flight? Or would you just lug it around to save money? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

5 Ways to Reduce Costs Inside an Airport

October 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Flying can be an expensive endeavor. You spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to get to your destination. But then you’re nickel-and-dimed on everything else once you get to the airport. Of course, everything is more expensive, so it’s more like you’re five-and-tenned.

But there are some ways you can avoid these high-priced incidentals once you get to the airport. We’ve brainstormed five ways to reduce your costs.

Washington Dulles Airport at dusk, photo by Joe Ravi

Washington Dulles Airport at dusk

Take an Uber or Lyft to the airport, or have a friend take you to save on parking costs, especially if you’re going to be gone for more than a week. Onsite parking at O’Hare International Airport’s long-term economy lot can run you $17/day—$40/day if you park in the main garage. While an Uber or Lyft ride might cost you somewhere in that range, that one-time cost will not grow exponentially while you’re on your trip. Better yet, ask (or bribe) a friend or family member to take you and pick you up. This option will be far cheaper than any other option, and your car will still be safe at home.
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Five Ways to Watch TV & Movies while Traveling

October 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Binge watching is sometimesone of the only things that makes a long-haul flight, road trip, or long-distance traveling tolerable. If you want to catch up on your favorite TV series or stream a movie you didn’t see in the theater, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to access media content on the road. You just need to plan ahead.

1. Download content from Hulu or Netflix

You can watch Hulu Plus or Netflix on different electronic devices while traveling.While Hulu and Netflix are great for streaming your favorite shows and movies, they’ve both recently begun allowing people to download content to be watched later. Before you start traveling, while you’re still on wifi, download as many episodes or films as your device will hold (don’t forget to save room for photos on your phone!)

2. Buy it on iTunes

If you don’t have Netflix or Hulu, or the content you want isn’t available for download, see if you can find it on iTunes and buy or rent it there. If you buy it, you have the added bonus of always owning that content, so you can watch it over and over to your heart’s desire. But you can only watch the Netflix/Hulu content for a limited time. If it’s ever removed from the streaming services, your copy will be lost as well.
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Which is Better for Air Travel, Aisle or Window? Your Choice Says a Lot About You

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The debate has raged since the dawn of air travel: Which is better, the window seat or the aisle seat?

A few years ago, Expedia polled their readers to find the majority preference. The results may surprise you.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they prefer the window seat, while only 45 percent say they always choose the aisle seat. Almost no one wanted the middle seat. (No great surprise there.)

According to University of Washington psychology professor Jonathan Bricker, these choices say things about each traveler. Those who choose the aisle value their freedom, he said. They can get up and go to the bathroom without asking anyone. They’re also all business. This means they’re probably going to be up working or reading a book. They also tend to be claustrophobic. Proponents of this seat choice also cite access to overhead bins, the ability to get up and walk around on long-haul flights, increased legroom, and priority exiting when deplaning.
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The Benefits of Bleisure Travel for Business Travelers

October 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

That proverb has a lesser-known second phrase which dates back to 1825: “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.”

With so many people spending significant amounts of time away from home on business, family relationships can suffer. What if there was a way to bring the family along on a trip, build in some leisure time, and come back from the trip not only accomplishing your purpose but getting away as well? You can do that, and it’s called bleisure travel, a portmanteau of business + leisure. And it’s a great way to make business travel a little more enjoyable for you and your family.

Here are several ways to plan bleisure travel.

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it's especially fun if you're near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it’s especially fun if you’re near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

If you’re going to a popular tourist area, say Orlando, for business, the company is paying for your airfare and your hotel. Why not take your family with you? If you do that, you’re already down there, and that’s one less airline ticket you’ll buy personally. Plus, the room is already paid for, regardless of who’s in it. (If the hotel charges more for more guests, you can personally pay the difference.)
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