5 Hotel Scams You Need to Know About

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve talked about hotel scams in the past, but it’s always good to review alarming information from the world around us.

We found a Yahoo Travel article on different travel scams that revealed some of our old favorites, as well as several new ones worth bringing to your attention.

When you’re staying at a hotel, the restaurant menu under the door is an old trick. Someone slides a menu under your door. You call and order takeout, and trustingly give out your credit card information. Except that’s no restaurant on the other end of the line. Instead, it’s a thief taking down your info and using your card information for nefarious purposes.

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI Pusdiklat Dep...

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beware of wifi skimming. This happens when a scammer sets up a “Free Wifi” hotspot for you to sign onto. Once you do, your passwords can easily be harvested by the scammer. Just resist the urge to sign on when you see free wifi.

It’s very easy to fake but if you know what to look for, you should be able to see the signs. Small things like a @ or % at the front of the wifi name, or Free_Hotel_Wifi mean you should avoid those like the plague.

A new (to us) scam we never thought of is the faked hotel views. For instance, before booking that expensive beach view hotel, check out the address on Google Street View and see if it really is close to the beach. With Google Street View, you really can see the view from the particular place you’re renting.

Another common scam is the fake front desk calls. They’ll tell you there’s something wrong with your credit card, and could you please give them the number again to confirm it. If you get that kind of call, go down to the front desk and make sure they actually did call you.

Have you ever been scammed? What’s the one people have tried on you? Leave a comment and let us know if there’s anything new we should watch out for.

Travel Secrets You Can Learn Sitting Next to a Pilot

April 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You can learn a lot from people, even on your travels, if you just talk to them on occasion. While most people don’t like to talk to their seat mates on a plane, a recent article on Yahoo revealed a few secrets the author, Leah Ginsberg, learned when flying back from Central America seated next to two off-duty pilots.

One of the things we had never thought of was to wipe everything in the vicinity of your seat down with antibacterial wipes. We were also surprised to hear that you should never touch the faucet handles in a plane. Apparently, pilots know some terrifying facts about germs on planes, although there’s always the possibility that this particular pilot happens to be a germaphobe.

Still, we plan to travel with antibacterial wipes until we hear differently.

Stormy Flight by Russ LoarWe also learned why plane windows are oval: Original plane windows were square, which for some reason was more open to cracking. And cracked windows can lead to window blow-outs, which lead to plane crashes. So next time you’re on a flight, take a moment to appreciate the safe rounded-corner window you’re looking out of.

And pilots, it turns out, are just like us! They like to look out the window, they use travel hacks, and they get tired of each other after long periods spent in each other’s company.

Ginsberg also noted the two pilots she sat next to paid careful attention to the flight attendants directions and followed the rules like champions.

What’s something cool you’ve learned from flying, whether it’s about airplanes, or just from a fellow (non-pilot) passenger? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Photo credit: Russ Loar (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Marriott Tests In-Room Netflix Service

April 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re staying in a Marriott hotel and find you miss your Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, and don’t want to chew up the data on your cell phone, you’re in luck. Marriott is planning a new in-room entertainment service that includes access to the three entertainment streaming services.

A Yahoo Travel article reported that Marriott is working with a number of different content providers to get their different hotel chains up and running with the latest in on-demand programming.

English: Copenhagen Marriott Hotel Dansk: Cope...

Copenhagen Marriott Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We think this is a smart move on Marriott’s part, because it not only helps the people who already have the service, but it could be a lower-cost alternative to the in-room movies or trying to catch up with the shows you may have missed.

Its usefulness will boil down to how much it costs. Hotels already charge a lot of money just to watch movies, so if this service will cost an arm and a leg, it may not be worth it to many travelers.

On the other hand, sometimes when people are bored and trapped in a hotel room, they’ll pay for anything. What else can explain the continued existence of the minibar?

And if Marriott can come up with an affordable way to do this, especially for people who already have accounts, or make it affordable for people who want to take the services for a test drive, it seems like a great idea.

It also seems like allowing people to view Netflix on the hotel TV instead of wifi would be a great way to free up some wifi bandwidth, which tends to get bogged down, as people watch Netflix on their laptops and tablets.

However, Marriott seems to also be exploring the option of allowing guests to upgrade to a paid “premium” Internet connection.

Since guests with Netflix and similar accounts can already access those services through wifi, they could get a guaranteed high-speed service. Or Marriott could throttle video streaming through their regular wifi, which would force viewers to shell out for the extra bandwidth.

Access to movies and music that doesn’t have to endure a long load time can perhaps be considered worth paying for, especially if your kids need it to settle down after a long day on the road.

What do you think? Would you pay extra for Netflix in your hotel room? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Bring This, Not That: Should You Take a Taxi, Hire a Car, or Drive to the Airport?

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When you’re going to the airport, what’s the most cost effective way of getting there and getting home again? Should you hire a cab or an Uber driver, or even a black town car? Or should you park your car in long-term parking?

In some cases, this really is a “six of one, half dozen of the other” scenario. So how do you figure out which is the better choice?

English: A checker taxi cab. Deutsch: Ein Chec...

English: A checker taxi cab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always prefer to hire a car to take me to the airport if we’re going on vacation. I’m already going to have to pay for parking if we drive our own car, which can really add up if it’s an extended stay. Out of pocket, the car service will be more than parking, but the convenience can outweigh a lot of things.

For one thing, I prefer a car service because being dropped off curb side saves on a lot of stress, especially if the whole family is going. So it’s always important to look for a car service that is decently priced, because prices can vary quite a bit.

Other considerations are the distance to the airport. How far away are you and what is the cost to get there by yourself in your car versus hiring a car or taxi? If you’re close to an airport, it’s a lot more economical to take a cab.

The airport pricing for parking varies. Finding a spot can be difficult if you’re at a busy airport, so you may need to valet park the car, which costs even more.

You can also consider park-and-flies, which are offsite parking services. You pay less, and a shuttle transports you to your terminal. They come by every half an hour, so you can stand on the curb at the airport (and the parking lot) and wait for them to make their return trip. This option is generally a lot less expensive than airport parking

Another option in larger cities is public transportation. In Florida, look for the Tri-Rail, which can get you from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami airport with great ease. You have to buy a ticket both ways but it’s a great option for extended stays and could be cheaper than a car service or a taxi.

It is more time consuming because it has more stops, however, so there’s the whole money-versus-time conundrum to figure out. But in terms of total dollars, the only thing cheaper is a friend who’s willing to help you out.

So how do you usually get to the airport? What’s your standard mode of transportation? Do you park and ride, take a cab, or even public transportation? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.

Expedia, Travelocity, Sabre and Consumers All Win in Acquisition

April 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The online travel reservation world has been shrinking, and we’re interested in seeing what this means to consumers who book their travel online.

A January article on MultiBriefs.com discusses Expedia’s recent acquisition of Travelocity, which strengthens its hold on the online booking market. According to the article, the company already owns Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, and CarRentals.com.

Since the article appeared, Expedia has also purchased Orbitz.

Expedia Squad South Beach, Florida

Expedia Squad South Beach, Florida

At present, Expedia plans to keep the new brands separate from each other and its own brand — they’ll keep the branding and corporate goodwill, but pull in all their profits.

And although these sites will remain separate, the back end systems may be the same, so pricing will not necessarily be different among the Expedia owned sites. We don’t know what will happen down the road, but we believe shutting down the original sites and switching users to Expedia would tend to lose revenue as unhappy customers migrated to other sites. In many cases, the general public won’t even be aware of the purchases, and continue to use their own favorite site.

One rather meaty issue that has arisen as a result of all this spending on Expedia’s part is the specter of an antitrust lawsuit. Expedia’s purchase of Travelocity and Orbitz leaves just one other major player in the U.S. online travel field, Priceline.

So it doesn’t seem impossible that an antitrust suit will be filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

According to a Dealpolitik blog post in the Wall Street Journal, Expedia is prepped for battle and in fact, included a clause within the Orbitz contract giving them until May of next year to wrap up any antitrust trouble that arises. Giving themselves that much time to work out matters with the government lets the regulators know that Expedia is willing to go to court, which shows their commitment to the deal.

Still, consumers don’t need to worry too much just yet about a lack of competition. Although Priceline and Expedia are the kings of the online travel world, new competitors enter the market place constantly, including companies with massive successes and presence in other areas, such as Google and Amazon.

Photo credit: Shibby (Flickr, Creative Commons)

4 Tips to Buy Luggage That Lasts

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you travel more than once every few years, even once a year, you’ll want to get luggage you can return to again and again. If you’re a frequent traveler, visiting the airport or train station more than four times a year, you need luggage that’s going to be with you for the long haul.

So how do you choose the luggage that’s going to give you what you need? The first step is to assess the kind of traveling you’re going to do the most frequently.

Tpro Bold 2 Group Photo - Blue

Our new Tpro Bold 2 line.

If you’re traveling for business, you probably want a carry-on size, usually because you’re only going to be in one location for a few days at a time. But if you’re traveling with your family, especially a family with small children, you probably want a large piece of luggage that can accommodate the whole clan to some extent.

Choose luggage based on the size and durability based on your total usage, not just your next trip. Disposable luggage can end up being more expensive than a single piece of high-quality luggage due to the fact that you might have to continually replace it.

You should also check out the warranty information of the piece you’re considering. That will give you an idea of whether the company stands behind their work, and how much protection you have if your bag starts shredding after just a couple months.

It’s also not a bad idea to stay with a well-known brand when buying your luggage. Luggage takes a beating, as travel is never easy, especially if you check your bags at the airport. Look at the value of your chosen bag, not just the price. Don’t compare the cheapest, flimsiest piece of luggage from one line to the best-in-show piece from another line. It’s like comparing apples to sports cars.

Crew 10 Computer Bag

Crew 10 Computer Bag

Assess the various features the luggage has. Check that the moving parts are high quality and durable. Look at the handles, wheels, and zippers, to see if they look durable or flimsy. Also check out the interior of the suitcase and make sure it looks like it will serve your needs as you travel. A good luggage manufacturer will have tested these things already, to determine whether they meet their high standards.

Finally, visit a specialized travel goods store, which will allow you to test the luggage extensively. The staff are very knowledgeable about travel and luggage, unlike some department stores. The travel goods stores also get feedback from frequent travelers, so they know what actually works.

If you’re not sure of what bag to get, it could be worth paying the travel goods store a visit, because they’ll understand what you need and can help you figure out which bag you should get.

How do you assess your own luggage purchases? Do you look for anything in particular, or visit a particular kind of store? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page, and let us hear from you.

How Young is too Young to Travel?

March 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A CNN article in March discussed some of the challenges associated with traveling with young children and how to determine when your child is old enough to travel.

We were intrigued by the idea but it also made us think about the benefits of traveling with young children. Some families travel with their kids to give them a new experience. Even young children, around three or four years old, are traveling with their families to Brazil or China. Those kids are experiencing different cultures in a way that many of us never will.

Lars Plougmann via Compfight (Creative Commons)

We’re not sure exactly what the right age is for kids to really learn something from travel. If they’re too young they may not get much out of it. But what’s that age limit? On the one hand, they may pick up some appreciation for different cultures and foods. On the other, they may learn patience just from sitting still in a car or plane for several hours.

My daughter is three, and I’m not sure she’d learn a lot from international travel, but I think it would be fun and good for her to expose her to different cultures. It just depends on how she would handle it. On the other hand, a colleague says she wouldn’t take her sons to restaurants at three.

It really depends on the temperament of the child and the patience of the parents. You have to make the call yourself on what is the right age for your child.

It’s a great idea if you have the means and the time to do it, but we don’t think there’s a magic age when it all happens because it’s so subjective and depends so much on each child.

Another important factor the article mentions is that you can make travel easier by choosing to drive or to schedule flights at times that are best for your child. We know someone who would drive from Indiana to Disney World by leaving at 10:00 pm, when his kids were asleep, so they would sleep through most of the drive. Of course, he was wiped out by the time he got there, but it was much better than dealing with unhappy kids during the daylight hours.

What age did you (or would you) start traveling with your children? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.

6 Tips for Making Solo Travel Amazing

March 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve all heard that we should be careful when traveling alone, and we sometimes worry that this keeps people from traveling at all.

The whole “you need to be comfortable with yourself” philosophy aside for the moment, we think it’s possible, and even enjoyable, to travel by yourself.

We recently read an article in Women’s Health about traveling alone. Although the article is aimed at women, men could benefit from some of the tips as well, such as dressing more conservatively than you would at home, especially if you’re going to visit a country where the culture is very different from your own.

Also, avoid dressing like you’re going to Home Depot on a Saturday morning. Try to fit in more with the local fashion, if only to avoid being identified as a tourist. Keep your gadgets, if you have them with you, hidden away in public places in order to avoid scrutiny and increased security.

If you want to meet people while traveling, go on a group trip as an individual. This way, you can meet people without having to make too much effort as it’s a lot easier to make new friends within such a group. Going somewhere as a volunteer is another great way to meet new people because in most cases, you will work together with others as a team to accomplish something meaningful.

We also liked the advice “be unapologetically selfish.” When you travel alone, you get to see only the things you want to see, so you can skip the collection telegraph pole photographs just because someone else wanted to see them. And you don’t have to visit the museum everyone else says you “have to” see.

One of our employees is a woman who has traveled extensively for business. She said these tips apply for business travelers too, because she tries to make some time to see the sights. She strongly recommends having a game plan in mind for what you want to see. This is especially important if you’re traveling on business, because your free time will be fairly limited.

She says she has a hard time taking the “Be unapologetically selfish” advice in the article to heart, but was intrigued by the idea. She thinks that both women and men should make an effort to have some down time just for themselves while traveling.

What special things do you do for yourself, or special precautions do you take, when you’re traveling alone? Do they work more for personal travel or business travel? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.

Biggest Mistakes People Make When Traveling

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in Yahoo travel about the mistakes that travelers tend to make got us thinking about our own advice for travelers.

One tip we make over and over is not having cash in hand before we set out on our travels. Although we mostly recommend that travelers use their cards when traveling and to have a limited amount of cash before you set out is extremely helpful because some places in the area you’re visiting might not take cards (for example, the toll booths on the Florida turnpike don’t take plastic).

Nice ATM

ATM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our employees has upcoming travel plans that include Spain and he plans to get Euros at his bank before he heads out. He says that using ATMs overseas can be dicey in that you may have your card flagged. We also feel that the exchange places at and near the airports can be overpriced.

We also believe not researching your destination is a huge mistake. Know what you want to visit before you go. Otherwise, you may end up in a beautiful area and not know what’s so great about it. Smartphones can help in this case, but they may not know important tourist destinations could be booked or you could arrive on the wrong day to hit a hot spot. Know before you go.

Our same globe-trotting employee took a list of destinations on a recent trip to Italy. Once he got there, he and his family cut back on the list and talked to locals about what was really worth their time. They ended up having the best possible trip because they were able to create a big list and cull from it, rather than try to decide where to go each morning, and miss better sights and venues.

The article says that relying heavily on public transport is a mistake. However, we tend to think that renting a car is the bigger mistake relating to getting around while traveling in a foreign land. That’s because it’s hard to really understand the traffic patterns and it’s certainly difficult to navigate when you can’t read the road signs.

It’s probably better to rent a car only if you plan on staying somewhere for an extended period of time. Stick with the public transportation whenever possible; in many of these countries, especially Western Europe, they excel at public transportation, and many locals don’t even own cars because the transportation is so good.

What are some of the travel mistakes you’ve made? What have you seen other people do? Leave us a blog comment or post something on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: MP3 players vs. Mobile Phones

March 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Music is an integral part of travel for many of us. And the advent of mobile devices, whether mp3 players or mobile phones, has made traveling with music easier than ever. Sitting in your seat with ear buds or perhaps a set of Beats by Dr Dre embracing your head can be a great way to avoid talkative seat mates, if you’re the sort of person who prefers not to chat in transit.

But which is the best option? Should you take your phone and use up precious battery life and even more precious data? Or do you take an extra mp3 player, like an iPod Classic, and have one more device to keep track of?

As usual, it depends on your own needs and preferences: what are you doing, and what do you need the device for?

A stack of the iPods I now own... included are...

A stack of iPods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


If space and weight is an absolute concern, just take your phone. Any smartphone on the market today can store music and stream music from one of the streaming services such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or even Stitcher for podcast fans.

But an mp3 player can be a great option if you have space or data concerns or if you want to work out while you’re traveling and prefer not to use your phone while exercising. It’s also a great option to avoid wearing down the battery on your phone while you’re in transit.

A small iPod shuffle can be extremely convenient when you’re traveling. You can easily stick the device in your pocket or clip it to a clothing item so you don’t lose it. And since it was specifically marketed for those that work out, it’s a great option if you want to work out on the road.

Another choice to make is whether you should store music on your device or use a streaming service such as Pandora iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Stitcher. Storing music on your phone takes up storage space, while using a streaming service uses data and your service may cut out while you’re in transit, unless you want to pay for wifi on the plane.

But no matter whether you bring your smartphone or your mp3 player and no matter how you store it, take a moment to remember that people used to make mix tapes or CDs.

How do you listen to music when you travel? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Next Page »