Bring This, Not That: Packing for Young Children

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Many new parents are often tempted to pack almost the entire bedroom when planning to travel with their kids. They want to make sure they’re prepared for every contingency, every situation.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Your kids just don’t need as much stuff as you think they do to survive a flight — you only need the key essentials. There’s often a tendency by new parents to overdo it, because they want to have everything and anything they need.

English: A typical baby's diaper bag, over-sho...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dragging an enormous diaper bag around the airport, in addition to everything else you have, is just going to exhaust you, and you’ll end up not using most of it anyway. Pack what they need: enough diapers, formula or snacks, one change of clothes, and a small blanket. Everything else you need can be checked in your regular baggage.

The other big concern when traveling with small children is keeping them entertained. The very little ones don’t need much at all, maybe a toy and a rattle. Your best hope is that they fall asleep on the flight, so try to arrange your schedule to make that happen.

Toddlers generally need more to keep them occupied, so a tablet can come in handy. If you don’t currently have an iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire, we recommend getting one for traveling with children. You’ll get to enjoy it as well, so it’s a win-win situation.

Load your tablet with your children’s favorite movies, and some new ones, some games and puzzles, and a few of their favorite tunes. With this setup, you could keep your toddler occupied for the entire trip.

If your child has a favorite toy or blanket they’re emotionally attached to, you absolutely must bring it along. Otherwise, the pain of separation will be loud and heart wrenching to you, your child, and everyone seated nearby.

Demanding a Return on Investment From Business Travel

December 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Business trips are a necessary part of doing business around the country or around the world. Trade shows, conferences, and client meetings are all a part of the game. Meeting someone face-to-face can change the dynamics of a key business relationship. The personal touch is still an important part of business, even in a world of e-mails, social media and text messages. But are you actually accomplishing goals with your travels, or are you just “traveling to travel?”

Business class coach.

Business class coach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amanda Stillwagon explains in her article on Small Business Trends the importance of demanding an ROI from business trips. She suggests making a list of must meet people, and then following up with them afterward.

If all you’re doing is traveling because it’s what you’ve always done , it might be wise to rethink your travel strategy into a business strategy. According to Stillwagon, the U.S. Travel Association states every dollar spent on business travel returns $10, if done properly.

You need to have some method of determining the trip’s value, by calculating potential sales or marketing opportunities, and then measuring the actual results. Set up goals before your trip, and measure the results afterward to see if you hit them. For example, if a trade show isn’t generating a positive ROI within a year, drop it and find a better one.

Take these trips as an opportunity to learn more about an industry to expand your network, showcase your products and/or to close a big deal.

Is a trip halfway across the world worth your investment? If there are top industry leaders you could meet, then probably, yes. But if it does not generate a positive ROI to the business, then it is just glorified sightseeing, and definitely not worth the money.

Last-Minute Travel Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

December 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We have discussed the little luxuries of traveling and how the experience can be enhanced by little niceties such as a mint on your pillow or a bottle of water when you check in. Getting an upgrade can be one of them.

Or not.

I have been offered upgrades due to my loyalty status in a frequent traveler program. They have been offered as a courtesy and to keep my continued business. In that sense, it’s worth it, because I’m going to keep using that airline, hotel, or rental car company. But for others, it may not give you the benefits you need.

English: EK J-Class

EK J-Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When checking into the airport or hotel, or renting a car, companies have begun asking at the counter if you want to pay for an upgrade, trying to make it sound like a good deal. For some, the upgrade is totally worth it, while others end up feeling like they suffered from a marketing scheme.

In the past, car rental companies ask if you want an upgrade for $10 a day more, but this is a relatively new concept for hotels and airlines. Airlines have increased their profit margins by this method of marketing alone, selling seat upgrades from Economy to Economy Plus, for example.

Some people have had good experiences with this new airline trend while others have not. According to Christopher Elliott’s article in the Seattle Times, Linda Petzler had a wonderful experience with her upgrade and found it well worth it. As she journeyed from London to Dallas, she made an upgrade to business class for $500 more. On the other hand, Judith Patrizzi made an upgrade on her trip from Rome to Boston, which she later regretted. She received terrible food and bulkhead seats with no more room than the ones she would have received without the “upgrade.”

This is a situation where you have to weigh the pros and cons. Is the room worth it? Or is saving money more important? We suggest always asking if you want an upgrade. Sometimes it may be given to you without a fee. For example, if your hotel has multiple stories, ask if they have any rooms on a higher level available with a great view. These are usually nicer and bigger anyway, and won’t necessarily cost anymore.

Would you pay for an upgrade to a nicer seat, room, or car? Is it worth it, or an unnecessary expense? Leave a comment on our blog post or on our Facebook page.

Why Airline Ticket Prices Vary So Widely

November 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The ticket you bought for your next flight could cost twice as much, or half as much, as the person sitting next to you. It’s a rule of flying that buying a ticket at the last minute means you’ll pay more than someone who bought when prices were at their lowest. If you have to book a ticket because of a family emergency or a last minute trip, you reluctantly pay a premium.

But did you know that ticket prices on an hour long economy flight can vary by as much as $1,400? This rather startling price difference was revealed by Hopper, a travel research website. A recent report they put out states that ticket prices for economy seats between LAX and Vegas — a 60 minute flight — ranged from $200 to $1,600.

DragonAir Economy SeatsThat’s quite a price difference and $1,600 is a lot to pay for such a short flight. The person who paid $1,600 must have been desperate, or quite the high roller.

So how do you avoid being the person who paid the most for their seat?

Part of it is a matter of luck: prices for the same flight vary day to day and even hour to hour. Your best bet on scoring at the lower end of the scale is to buy ahead of time, of course.

You can also check out Hopper’s website, which gives you a good idea of the range of prices for a particular destination and what the best deal is likely to be. If you see something within your acceptable range, be sure to snap it up right away. That price may be gone in 60 minutes.

If you enter the airports you’re flying between, you’ll also get a detailed breakdown of varying flight costs, the best time to buy tickets, and the most popular days to travel to a particular destination. They also provide info on what carriers make the trip, with a percentile breakdown. Plus there’s a list of alternate airports you can travel through to get close to the same spot.

If you want to avoid getting stung by high ticket prices, plan ahead, and use the tools to do some comparison shopping. Whether it’s Hopper or any of the other travel sites online, it’s a matter of good planning and plain luck.

Photo credit: Luke Lai (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Planes Filled to Peak Capacity to Keep Up With Demand

November 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember when it was common to be seated in a airplane row with multiple empty seats you could stretch out on? It seems those days are gone. It’s now more likely you’ll hear flight attendants say, “Today’s flight is completely full, so please store small items under the seat in front of you.”

That’s more than a feeling. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics says 2013 was a record year for flying, with 83.1 percent of all seats filled — the highest rate ever. Although it may seem annoying to the weary traveler to face seats filled completely around you, the fact of the matter is that the more seats an airline fills, the more efficiently it’s operating.

English: inflight service by a stewardess

Inflight service by a flight attendant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think of an airline like a rental truck you rented to move your furniture to a new house. Is it better to fill your truck up and make one trip or fill it halfway and make multiple trips? Which costs more? Which saves you more time and money?

The answer is pretty obvious.

Airlines want to fill up every flight so they’re fully utilizing their capacity and generating the greatest profit for the lowest cost per passenger. Every single flight carries fixed costs like gas, the pilots, and the flight attendants, among many other costs. That’s true whether you’re carrying one passenger or 400. But if you can carry 400, your cost per passenger drops significantly.

In 2013, although there were more travelers than ever, there were also fewer flights. More people are flying for business and for pleasure than ever before, but airlines are reducing the number of flights to ensure they’re as full as possible.

What seems inconvenient is actually greater efficiency on the part of airlines compared to how they used to operate in the past. And while we may not care so much about the airline’s bottom line, it’s nice to know the airline is more likely to stay in business, so we can get to where we need to go the next time we need a flight.

While it may be a pain and make us uncomfortable, this is going to be business as usual for the airline industry for the foreseeable future. So it’s important that we adapt and find new ways to be comfortable and enjoy the flight.

Air Travel and Kids Don’t Always Mix

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Families flying with kids are having a tougher time of it than ever before. Incidents and news stories where families with children are treated poorly by an airline as a whole or by a particular airline employee are common. For example, kids or parents may be scolded, or even removed from a flight if a child behaves badly. These days, families may have a hard time getting seats together, and tickets for unaccompanied minors may be canceled without warning.

It may seem like families are being singled out as unwelcome travelers, but the fact is that flying in today’s world is simply not as comfortable as it used to be. Flights are fuller, services once taken for granted cost extra, and everyone seems to be a little crankier.

Child on AirplaneAirlines are placed in a difficult situation. Kids can sometimes involve more work for staff, and they’re unlikely to buy expensive meals or seat upgrades. A traveling child is usually looking to sit in the middle seat next to adults in his or her family and eat snacks provided by the parents.

A child traveling alone can require extra attention from staff as well as there is a very real fear that the child could get lost during a layover or even after the flight. Many airlines no longer accept unaccompanied minors (usually kids between ages 5 to 11), even if the parent is willing to pay extra for the service.

So how can airlines and parents work together to make traveling pleasant for everyone?

One idea we discussed (and later discovered) was a “flight nanny.” This person would be a designated travel concierge and guardian for a minor child, or children. The flight nanny will, for a fee, take on care, entertainment, and feeding of on-flight children, accompanying them from one airport to their final destination.

There is one service like this already, called Nanny In The Clouds, which matches traveling parents with nannies already traveling on a flight. They’re able to negotiate a rate (usually $10 – $20 per hour), and the nanny will help take charge of the children, keeping them in check for the flight.

We also suggest the idea as an option for people who want to send their children as unaccompanied minors on a flight. It would mean checking the person’s credentials, interviewing them, and making sure he or she arrives safely and puts your children directly into the caregiver’s hands.

If parents can find a way to help their children behave properly on a flight, or even be able to travel at all to visit family, it makes life easier for the parents, and helps the passengers around them feel more comfortable.

 
Photo credit: Tzusuhn Hsu

A New Website For Boomers And Other Older Travelers

November 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

AARP, the powerhouse organization that unites people over 50 by giving them a distinct voice and many life discounts, has recently launched a travel website.

AARP Travel features a search engine powered by Expedia, and offers the usual features, such as the ability to search for a good deal on tickets, hotel, and rental car in any given destination. You can also use it to search for the best deals on cruises. One thing that sets the AARP search engine apart from other sites, including Expedia itself, is the ability to access AARP member discounts.

AARP Travel Center logoAARP Travel also aims to help travelers research and plan for a trip before they deciding on a destination. For instance, articles feature information on best cities to visit, fall foliage trips, and wineries not in California. The articles are specifically geared at the traveler over 50. The site also hosts travel tips from “AARP Travel Ambassador” Samantha Brown who periodically posts articles with words of wisdom on travel-related concerns.

Another feature at AARP Travel is the Trip Finder, which takes you through a five step questionnaire about the types of things you like to do on vacation, types of scenery you’re looking for, how long you want to stay, when you want to go, and who you want to go with. The result is a specific recommendation such as “We think you’d love Taos, NM.” It includes a summary of what’s great about the selected spot, links to more info, and other places you also might enjoy.

The site also offers interactive maps of particular destinations, so you can easily see restaurants, attractions, and other great information about your locale of choice.

These are all nice features, but the site is not breaking a lot of new ground. The benefit is that it’s all pulled together into one place and presented by a trusted, hopefully unbiased, source that is geared toward helping out folks of “a certain age.”

Bring This, Not That: Comforts of Home

November 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you’ll spend time thinking about what to pack before you head out. Sure, you need your toothbrush and clean clothes, but do you need your pillow, favorite blanket, or other items that make you feel comfortable and remind you of home?

Our opinion is “it depends.”

If you’re driving and there’s room in the car, take anything that will fit. Just make sure you don’t leave your precious items behind when you return home.

English: All the comforts of home... This was ...

English: All the comforts of home…  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But if you’re flying, space is at a premium. You’re going to be packed into a plane with hundreds of other travelers and you may be lugging carry-ons around the airport between flights. And these days, most folks prefer to travel light to avoid paying the hefty fees associated with extra baggage. Plus, you may be carting gifts back and forth, which will already eat into any extra luggage space.

One of the great reasons for taking a vacation is to get a break from your routine, and to have new experiences. Can you really get that if you take your whole house with you?

In general, no. But if you’ll be staying somewhere for a longer period, like spending several weeks somewhere warm over the winter, you may want to cart a few extras along. Here are a few options to help you save space and energy trying to wrestle everything to and from home.

  • Consider shipping things so you don’t have to carry them with you. This is especially true of light-but-bulky items like pillows.
  • Pack a giant bag, check it, and pay the overage fees so you don’t have to deal with carry-ons. Sure it’s expensive, but you’re not going to get your favorite quilt into your small rollaboard.
  • Buy a carbon copy of the item once you get to your destination. If this is a yearly routine, maybe your relatives will hold onto that comfy blanket. If it’s your second home, it’s easier to have extras. And if you’re just on a long vacation and don’t plan on returning, donate the item to charity before you head back home.

Do you take your comforts of home with you? How do you manage it all, or manage going without? Leave a comment on the blog or our Facebook page.

Flying with Your Child

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As airlines continue to find new profit streams, more and more fees are being levied on every aspect of air travel, especially as it relates to convenience and comfort. Included in that list of conveniences is automatically receiving adjacent seat assignments when buying more than one ticket.

This can create nightmare scenarios if you’re not prepared. For example, two parents flying with a three year old and seven year old could face the possibility of everybody being seated separately.

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR t...

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi BKK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why parents need to plan ahead when buying tickets. The best thing to do when flying with children is buy tickets well in advance, after making sure your chosen airline has a system in place to reserve seats at time of purchase. If you buy far enough ahead, the chance of snagging adjacent seats is high. The chance that doing so will be free is not as high. Many airlines now charge extra for premium seats, including aisle and window seats. Or, you can fly Southwest, which doesn’t have reserved seats, but offers priority seating for travelers with children under four.

But everything doesn’t always go according to plan. Travel is sometimes last minute. And some parents have strict budgets in place. Should you not be able to reserve adjacent seats at the time of purchase, see if you can work with the airline to get seats with your kids. Call after you buy your tickets or arrive early on the day of the flight.

Even after all this effort, you may still find yourself on a flight with your kids in a different aisle. Many people will take pity on your plight and trade readily to keep your family together. But don’t assume the stranger sitting next to your kids is in the mood to trade seats, especially if he or she paid a premium to sit in the spot. Be prepared for a round of airplane “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Put your game face on and find someone else to trade with you. Or go prepared with a treat bag or gift cards to bribe the other person. Even if the person traded without blinking an eye, giving them a hearty thank you and a Starbucks gift card can make them feel better about helping you out.

How do you travel with your children? Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to solve the problem? Leave us a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page.

Hotels with Women-Only Floors

November 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

More women are traveling for business than ever before these days. With this increase comes a new form of travel marketing: some high-end hotels are offering floors dedicated only to women.

The Naumi Hotel in Singapore offers women-only floors to its female travelers.

The Naumi Hotel in Singapore offers women-only floors to its female travelers.

Some of these “no men allowed” floors even go so far as to having female staff and a female concierge serve that floor. For some hotels around the world, it’s a question of safety. For others, it’s a marketing tactic geared toward attracting more women. Some of these gender-specific features include:

  • A focus on creature comforts that are actually sized for women, such as smaller robes, slippers, hangers, and other petite items.
  • Luxury items that are seen as more appealing for women, such as yoga mats, silk clothes hangers, and white wine in the room.
  • Decor that may appeal more to women, such as floral wallpapers and so on.

It sounds great, although we recognize that some people may see these single-sex floors as sexist. A recent court ruling in Denmark stated that a hotel’s women-only floor was discriminatory and the hotel was forced to open its rooms to men as well. In other countries, the women-only floors have remained open for business. Similarly, a hotel in Calgary has offered up a men-only floor to complement its women-only offering.

Perhaps the main beneficiary of women-only floors is the hotel industry. These rooms generally come with a hefty price tag for all the extra amenities and security. And whether these floors are successful will, in all likelihood, be determined more by the bottom line than the courtroom. Hotels are driven by profit which means filling rooms. If these gender specific floors can’t stay filled, we can’t imagine they’ll be kept around.

What do you think? Would you stay on a gender-specific floor? Would it be worth the extra cost? Leave a comment on our blog or Facebook page.

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