Is Common Sense In Travel Dead?

April 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

When you’re traveling or on vacation, you want to feel relaxed and at home. When you feel relaxed and at home, you let your guard down, and things can get stolen. When things get stolen, your vacation becomes a nightmare, and you’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Don’t let your guard down when you’re on vacation.

MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room

MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Say you are going down the hallway to get ice in the hotel and just leave your door ajar because you’ll be right back or you leave your Kindle or iPad on your chair to go to the restroom. But when you get back, you discover your tablet is gone and your room has been burglarized. You’ve been the victim of a robbery, all because you assumed you and your belongings were safe, just like at home. This is why it’s important to travel smart and keep your guard up. You’re not at home, which means you have to be on your guard.

A recent article in USA Today said that travelers and experts believe that common sense in traveling might be dead. We don’t necessarily think that common sense is out the door — unlike your iPad and wallet — but these stories of carelessness are becoming more prevalent as more and more people travel. We are traveling more than we ever did in the past and as you know, planes are packed with people.

Technology is making it easier to travel. Your smartphones and tablets willl let you go anywhere and do everything for you so you don’t really have to think. And when you don’t know the smarts of traveling, you are more likely to be the victim of scams. Keep in mind that you are in a different place and need to keep smart and use common sense to avoid getting out of touch with reality. There are an increasing number of stories of horrible accidents that travelers get themselves into because they were not thinking. One of the culprits is an over-reliance on technology, and the other is letting your guard down.

Remember that when you’re traveling, you’re not in the cyberworld, but in the real world. Keep your eyes open, listen carefully, and be aware of where you are. And don’t let your trip or vacation turn bad because of a simple mistake you made. Stay smart and bring your brain when traveling.

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New Technology Changing the Future of Airports

March 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Many airports are undergoing major technology changes and updates throughout the country, beyond just adding new electrical outlets and USB ports at different gates (although that’s very important). Airports are getting new looks and brand new technology that can make the time we spend waiting for our planes easier and more pleasurable.

According to a recent article on the (FTE) blog, the Bradley West Terminal at LAX is getting new digital technology, including screens and interactive devices, as well as adding outlets for almost every other chair. (We told you it was important). Users can even interact with digital screens via their own mobile phone or tablet. The retrofit took five years, and is using the latest technology to improve travelers’ gate experience (in fact, they won an award for “Best Experience at the Gate”.

The theme restaurant and control tower at Los ...

The theme restaurant and control tower at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology often changed faster than the installations were going in. Curtis Fentress Principal-in-Charge of Design at Fentress Architects told FTE, “We’ve been working on (the LAX) project for around five years and we’ve made changes on the fly throughout that time.”

Fentress is also working to create a “sense of place” for airports, something his firm did for the Denver International Airport in 1995. Now, architects around the world are all re-imagining their airports so the design and style will be appropriate for their particular cities, not just through appearance, but in functionality as well.

Fentress even told FTE to start watching for materials that can clean and repair themselves. “Things like self-repairing materials, self-cleaning glass and self-cleaning carpets are wonderful concepts and it’s true that all of them are being developed.”

The end result is that airports will no longer be a place we have to endure, avoid, or complain about. They’re becoming more functional and more pleasurable to spend time in. While airports will never be as comfortable as your home or office, they can at least be an enjoyable part of your travels.

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Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

When you purchase tickets for a flight, you probably don’t pay much thought to how the information you’re providing — your name, date of birth, and address — is being used. In fact, most travelers don’t give airport security much thought until they’re in line at the TSA screening checkpoint. However, the Travel Security Administration has recently begun running increased security checks on travelers before they even arrive at the airport.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Basic security checks are nothing new. For years, the TSA has been running a program called Secure Flight. Before a traveler steps foot into the airport, their name, date of birth and address are compared with terrorist watch lists. However, through this new program, the TSA will be comparing traveler information against a wide array of government and private databases. That being said, it’s unclear exactly which specific databases the TSA will be accessing, however some speculate that it may include things like past travel itineraries, law enforcement records, property records and the like.

While this level of screening may seem intrusive, the TSA claims that this information will be used to streamline airport security screenings, with the ultimate goal of giving 25% of passengers lighter screenings within the year, allowing pre-approved passengers to keep their shoes and jackets on and go through a simplified screening process, not unlike their Pre-Check program. On the flip side, travelers that are flagged as “high-risk” may experience increased, and repeated, security screenings.

Unfortunately, travelers who are wrongly placed on the security watch list may run into endless problems while traveling. While those that have been wrongly labeled “high risk” can petition to have their name removed through the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, some civil liberties groups complain that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to be removed.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you ok with the prospect of having increased security checks run on you before you enter the airport, in exchange for increased security and a simplified airport screening process? Share your thoughts in the comments section, or on our Facebook page.

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Big Travel Changes In 2013

March 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The travel industry has changed immensely in the last few years, thanks in large part to Millennials and their travel habits. Commonly referred to as ‘Gen Y’, this tech savvy generation has caused big changes within the travel industry over the last year. Here are three surprising changes we’ve seen take place.

Home-As-Lodging > Hotels

Airbnb sticker

Airbnb sticker (Photo credit: Effie.Y.)

Many savvy travelers are skipping chain hotels in favor of lodging through sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO. These sites enable travelers to book anything from a spare room to an entire home in cities around the globe for significantly less than hotel room rates. This trend is especially appealing for group travelers who want to stay under one roof, budget travelers looking for cheap digs in a good location and solo travelers who wish to stay with a local. The home-as-lodging trend is so hot, that Airbnb is expected pass InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide and become the globe’s largest hotelier by the end of 2014.

Indie Travel Guides > Tours

Savvy travelers are forgoing the mainstream guides and booking tours through sites like Sidetour, Getyourguide and Canaryhop. Such sites hook travelers (and locals) up with unique city tours, classes and experiences in major cities around the world, making them a great way to get off the beaten path and meet locals.

Ridesharing > Taxis

Cabs can get expensive. Enter ridesharing programs like Lyft and UberX, which enable travelers to hitch a ride with a (fully-vetted) person in their personal vehicle. Ridesharing is significantly cheaper than taxi rides, and thanks to their apps, they’re also much more convenient to use in cities where it’s difficult to flag a cab. While the concept may seem a bit sketchy, many travelers report that the experience is actually much more positive than a traditional taxi experience.

With the travel industry changing so rapidly, we’re excited to see what changes are in store in the upcoming year.

Have you tried out any of these newer services while traveling? If so, we’d love to hear your experiences. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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How Do American Airlines’ New Planes Compare to JetBlue’s?

March 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

First class is officially getting an upgrade. American Airlines recently released its new transcontinental fleet at JFK airport. Perhaps the most impressive is the new Airbus A321, which will run from JFK to LAX and SFO (Los Angeles and San Francisco). This particular plane is positioned to be American Airlines’ answer to JetBlue’s new premium product, the aptly named ‘Mint’, which will also run from JFK to LAX or SFO. There are many similarities between these new planes, so how do they compare?

To start, American Airlines’ A321 is the first plane to offer a three class cabin featuring first class, business class and coach. JetBlue, however, only offers two levels: coach and Mint. Both airlines will offer fully-lie flat seating. On American’s A321, lie-flat seating will be available in both first and business class. Additionally, AA will offer Main Cabin Extra seating for an additional fee, which offers six inches of additional legroom.

English: DFW American Airlines Departure

English: DFW American Airlines Departure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If sleeping on planes isn’t your thing, you’re in luck: both carriers offer extensive entertainment options via personal in-seat entertainment. American will offer a 9-inch HD-capable touchscreen with up to 120 movies, 180 TV shows, 350 audio selections and 30 games in addition to wifi via Gogo. JetBlue’s Mint service will offer 15 inch interactive video screens featuring up to 100 channels from DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio and access to Fly-Fi, which claims to be the industry’s first high-speed satellite-based Internet service.

When it comes to meal options, JetBlue appears to be the winner. While American Airlines will offer the ability to order entrees before your flight, JetBlue is kicking things up a notch: they’ve partnered with renowned New York restaurant Saxon + Parole to create a unique small-plates menu. Additionally, Mint passengers can enjoy full-bottle wine service.

While both flights will also offer complimentary amenity kits, Mint has taken theirs to the next level by partnering with Birchbox. Each kit will be filled with “editor-approved” beauty, grooming and lifestyle products and treats.

With amenities like these, long-haul transcontinental flights are looking more and more appealing. With first class amenities such as these, we wouldn’t mind a few extra hours spent in-flight…

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Bring This, Not That: Layers vs. Big Coats

March 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

How many times have you left home in a big coat and regretted it the minute you arrived at your destination? Even a trip to the mall in the winter can make a big coat seem like a bad idea when you have to lug it around, after only needing it to walk the 200 yards from your car.

When traveling during cold months, many travelers assume they need to bring their big coat to keep warm. It works, but there’s a better option: layer up and wear several light shirts and a fleece, rather than one shirt and a heavy coat. You have more flexibility with changing temperatures by wearing many layers, not to mention that you won’t have to haul that giant parka around with you.

Going Through a Climate Change

If you are traveling to a very cold location, like Finland in January, a big coat is probably a must. But if you can avoid bringing it to a place like St. Louis in March, why not? You may save room in your suitcase by wearing it onto the plane, but you still have to mess with it. Whether putting it in an overhead compartment, or carrying it around when you find out it’s not as cold as you thought, big coats take up a lot of space.

That being said, it may useful to wear that big coat, especially if you’re going to be outside a lot. But if you’re only dashing from cabs and cars to restaurants and offices, skip the coat and layer up.

If you are traveling from a cold climate to a hot one, layering is definitely recommended. You won’t want to carry that coat around in a warm climate and it is easier to add or subtract a few layers when needed. Plus you can pack them away when you don’t need them.

Bottom Line: Focus on Common Use

Think about packing for your most common use, rather than your peak use. Look at what you will be doing the most during your trip, rather than the worst situation you’ll only face once. Will you be outside most of the time in single digit temperatures? Then a big coat is a must. Otherwise, we recommend sticking with layers, thick and thin shirts. Layers make it easier in a temperature change and offer variety in climate changes you aren’t used to.

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Frequent Flier Miles Being Devalued

March 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve been thinking about signing up for an airline’s loyalty program, you may want to think again. Some airlines are devaluing their frequent flier mile programs, making free airline seats harder to earn.

Several years ago, airlines said they would never be so bold as to change their loyalty programs. They were afraid that if they changed the program, passengers would go elsewhere. You could earn large blocks of miles and obtain a free ticket fairly easily.

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...

Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, airlines have been consolidating, making less competition for booking airfare. Therefore, they have more flexibility in changing their loyalty programs, adding more blackout dates, increasing the cost of rewards, and decreasing the point value of flights.

Peter Greenberg said on his blog that not only are frequent flier miles becoming harder to redeem, but also that the points to every dollar ratio are decreasing. This means that depending on the airline, your points can be up to 25% less in value.

Why is this happening? Why are airlines making it harder to be loyal to them?

It’s because airlines are already flying at close to full capacity, and there are fewer seats available on the market, which means the airlines don’t need to work quite as hard to earn your patronage. And since people are already paying for seats, why give one away? Ultimately, this is one of their methods to stay profitable. And one of the things that is suffering is the frequent flier programs.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how to earn points without being confined to a loyalty program that could be changed in a few years. You could always earn points on a credit card, something that I do on a regular basis. The value of the points you earn on credit cards can exceed the airline benefits and you are not confined to one air carrier when you book your air travel.

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Bring This, Not That: Backpacks Versus Duffel Bags

February 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We were recently reminded of why we like being a luggage company after reading Mark Eveleigh’s post on his blog,, extolling the virtue of kitbags (duffel bags) over backpacks.

The decision whether to carry that weight on my back for the next few months or to simply haul it on a kitbag with wheels is a no-brainer.
. . .
Before you head for the airport next time, at least spare a thought for which sort of bag is suited to your trip. On a relatively long adventure travel jaunt, there will be relatively few incidences when a backpack is preferable. There will be countless times, however, when you’ll whisper up a prayer of thanks for the foresight that turned you into a kitbagger. From the airport to the bus, to the hostel, to the bus, to the beach, to another hostel, to another bus, to a national park a tough, well-made kitbag on heavy-duty wheels is the easiest way to transport your kit across all but the roughest of dirt tracks.

Tpro Bold Duffel, open side

Tpro Bold kitbag, er duffel bag, can open from the side or top. It lets you sort items into compartments, and gives you easy access. Plus it rolls, so you don’t have to carry it.

Kitbag is a British word for a duffel bag, and there are several styles of kitbag — er, duffel bags — that have wheels on them. They’re easy to pick up and carry when necessary, and even easier to pull along behind you, just like a regular piece of Rollaboard® luggage. Travelpro offers a wide variety of rolling duffel bag styles in the T-Pro Bold, Platinum Magna and National Geographic luggage collections.

If you’ve ever hauled a 60-pound backpack for miles through Europe, South America, or Africa, you know how hot and sweaty you can get by toting around three month’s worth of belongings on your back. But pulling your bag behind you lets you not only carry more, but you can transport said bag more easily.

Bottom Line

Backpacks are great. They’re a lot of fun, they’re great for hiking and camping, and they have a secret gypsy vagabond appeal for many of us. We even make backpacks for people to haul their laptops, tablets and paperwork. It may not be trekking the rainforest of Chiapas or the streets of Paris, but you can still feel like you’re there, even when you’re just walking to your car after work.

But when it comes down to it, if you need something rugged, tough, and built to last, a rolling duffel bag kitbag is your best bet. They’re soft, so you can overstuff them. They have plenty of compartments, so you can keep items separated by function. And they open at the top so you can easily dig out an extra shirt or your book for the plane.

Mark wrote several posts for us in 2010 after hauling some of our T-Pro Bold rolling duffel bags (kitbags) through Chiapas, Mexico and down the Amazon River. We figured if anyone knows about proper adventure travel gear, it’s bound to be Mark.

So when he said kitbags, not backpacks, we wanted to pass on his thoughts to adventure traveler within us all.

Travel Advice You Should Ignore

February 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, a friend posted a note to Facebook asking people for advice on the best way to travel through Europe. Within a few hours, his post had received over a hundred comments, and each commenter provided a strong case for why their suggestion was best.

When it comes to traveling, everyone seems to have advice on everything from building an itinerary to when, where, and how to book reservations. While your friends will probably offer you plenty of sound tips, there are certain bits of travel advice you should simply avoid.

Here are five popular travel tips that you’re better off avoiding.

1. You should book your flights as early as possible

Travel Guides

Travel Guides (Photo credit: Vanessa (EY))

Many people insist that the earlier you book your flight, the better. While you absolutely shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to book, you should also not book more than two months prior to your departure date for international travel, and one month for domestic. Anything before that, and you run the risk of paying more.

2. You’ll get the best rate by booking directly through the hotel

A lot of people believe they’re getting the best rate possible by calling the hotel to book a reservation. While this may be true some of the time, it’s definitely not true all the time. In fact, one major hotel chain’s website promises they’re offering the absolute lowest price available, but I’ve booked the same rooms for $20+ cheaper per night on a third party site.

3. You’ll save money by staying at an all-inclusive resort

This truly depends on where you’re going, when you’re visiting, what’s included in the package and how much you typically spend on meals and drinks while vacationing. For some people, an all-inclusive resort may truly be a great deal. However, if you’re someone who typically dines on a budget and doesn’t plan on racking up a large bill at the bar, you may save yourself a few hundred dollars or more by staying elsewhere.

4. Buying a Eurail pass is the most affordable way to travel through Europe

Again, this varies from situation to situation. However, if you’re bouncing from country-to-country and not spending much time within a single country, you will likely find that it’s cheaper to either buy single tickets or fly via a discount carrier.

5. You should bring plenty of cash when traveling

While it’s true that you should bring some cash when traveling, you shouldn’t bring too much. A good rule of thumb is to bring enough cash to cover you for one to two days in case you have issues with your debit or credit card. Anything past that, and you’re tempting fate. Your bank will cover fraudulent transactions on your card – but if you lose that cash, you’re completely out of luck.

We’d love to hear from you. Have you received any travel tips that turned out to be bad advice? Share with us in the comments section.

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How to Handle Weather Delays and Flight Cancellations

February 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Unless you’re one of the lucky few that live in areas that haven’t been hit by extreme weather this winter, you can probably attest to the fact that at times, this year’s weather has made it nearly impossible to even go to the grocery store, much less travel. By the end of January, thousands of flights had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions.

Whether you’re traveling soon or in the future, it always pays to be prepared to successfully handle a flight cancellation.

1. Avoid connecting flights at certain airports

Snow in MN Airport

Snow in MN Airport (Photo credit: nengard)

While the recent snow and ice down south has proven that at times, it can be hard to avoid severe winter weather, there are certain regions you’ll probably want to avoid flying in and out of during the winter months. If you have a few different options for your layover, try to avoid airports in the Midwest, Northeast and Rocky Mountain areas.

2. Know before you go

A few days before your trip, check the weather forecast for your destination and any layover cities. If you’re heading into severe weather conditions, contact the airline to see if they’ll allow you to rebook or change your flight route without penalty.

3. Stay alert

Sign up for flight status notifications from the airline you’ll be traveling with. When flights are cancelled, time is of the essence — if you wish to get put on a new flight, you’ll want to be one step ahead of everyone else.

4. Act fast

If your flight is cancelled, you’ll need to act fast in order to land a seat on another flight. If you’re already at the gate when your cancellation is announced, chances are everyone will rush over to the desk agent for assistance. Avoid the mob. Call the airline’s 1-800 number or walk down to another gate serviced by the airline and get assistance there. While you may instinctively visit the carrier’s website for assistance, your best bet is to speak to a real, live person.

5. Know your alternatives

If you think there’s a good chance your flight will be cancelled, do a bit of research before your trip and find alternative flight routes. In the event that your flight is cancelled, you’ll be well-prepared to get re-booked quickly, and perhaps via an option that the desk agent hadn’t even been aware of.

Do you have any tips for successfully surviving flight cancellations? Share them with us in the comments section.

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