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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Which Airlines Accept TSA PreCheck?

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

TSA PreCheck has been available since October 2011 and saved countless travelers countless hours of standing in security lines at the airport. If you’re a frequent flier who has gone through the screening process and paid the $85 fee (good for five years) to obtain your known traveler number, you might be surprised to learn that there are still airlines that do not accept it.

With 37 domestic and international airlines and 200 US airports currently participating in the program, the odds of not being able to use PreCheck only increase if you are flying domestically from a smaller airport or you’re flying internationally on one of the following airlines.

TSA PreCheck sign showing the way to an empty pathway, next to a line packed with people.If you’e a PreCheck member, you won’t be able to use the following airlines: Aer Lingus, Air France, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, EasyJet, EgyptAir, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Nippon Airways, Norwegian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Ryanair.
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How to De-stress during Business Travel

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travel is inevitable these days, as companies hire fewer people and give them bigger territories to manage. Bigger territories translate into stress that accompanies your travel like its own baggage; if left unattended, it can lead to some serious health issues. Just because you have to be on the road doesn’t mean it has to be stressful. Here are some effective ways to de-stress on the road.

1. Your itinerary. Make it a point never to fly into a city the same day you have a meeting or are scheduled to speak at a conference. Too many things can go wrong, and when (not if) they do, you’re setting yourself up for increased anxiety and distraction. Going in the night before allows you to start the day refreshed, prepared, and organized. Feel free to fly home the same day the meeting ends, but don’t schedule your travel so tightly that you’re frazzled by the time you meet your client.

Your business travel doesn't have to be stressful. Silhouette of a man walking through an airport.2. Create a strategy for the airport. Scout out an off-site parking facility that takes reservations and provides efficient shuttle service to and from the terminal. Doing so will save you time and energy traversing the parking lots looking for a spot. Next, as if we haven’t said this enough, get TSA PreCheck. Again, time saved is mental energy gained.
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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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Don’t Believe These Business Travel Room Service Myths

September 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Unless you’re a seasoned traveler, you may think twice when the urge for a late-night snack or breakfast in bed strikes while you’re overnighting at a hotel. We’re here to debunk a few myths about this perk.

Room service prices are identical to the price of the same entree in the hotel’s restaurant. I’m not sure if anyone who has really ordered from a room service menu would believe this, but it’s true. The big difference in prices are those service charges. Essentially, that means you’re paying for personal delivery. According to Paris-based food critic Alexander Lobrano, service charges and other fine print fees are “ways of making you pay for the pleasure of private dining, something that most hotels have pretty much fallen out of love with because it’s logistically complicated.”

Hotel room service can be convenient on business travel trips.Room service is just as fresh as the food in the hotel restaurant because it’s made-to-order. Yes and no. Lobrano said in a January 2017 USA Today article, “most room service items are at least partially pre-prepared, since the room service kitchen or area of a larger kitchen dedicated to room service needs to work ahead . . . And if you really want to see what’s pre-prepared . . . study the night owl room service menu, since those items are designed so that anyone can prepare the dishes easily.” Although the food may be made-to-order, the transportation time to your room will inevitably affect the temperature, and instead of being served courses, your entire meal comes at once.
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Churning Credit Cards for Points and Miles Can Hurt You

September 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You get the credit card offers in the mail all the time. “Earn 100,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months.” Sounds easy enough. If you worked at it, you could spend three grand and then take a couple flights for vacation.

But if you’ve ever been tempted to sign up with the intention of spending the minimum, getting your miles, and then cancelling the card, you might want to reconsider. More and more airlines and credit card companies are cracking down on consumers who attempt to work the system, cancel the cards, and sign up again 18 to 24 months later.

The practice is called churning, and it can actually work against you.

Last year, USA Today travel columnist George Hobica warned of the dangers of churning credit cards as a way to game the airline’s system.

A messy stack of credit cards - Churning credit cards can damage your creditFor one thing, your credit score will take a hit. It may not seem like a big deal, but be aware that repeatedly applying for credit cards makes you appear to be a higher risk than those who apply less often. And if your score takes a hit of a few points and you own a home, your mortgage lender or credit card lender might increase your rate. Then those “free” flights aren’t so “free.”
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Busting Five Budget Business Travel Myths

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Everyone works hard for their money, and nobody likes the idea of parting with any more of it than necessary. In fact, everybody likes a deal. But when it comes to budget business travel, some of the advice you may have received is nothing more than myth and urban legend. Here are several:

Myth: Unlock your phone for international travel. This is completely unnecessary, unless you are going to be in an area of the world where you will need to be able to make calls whenever you want and you know you won’t have access to any reliable wifi. If you know you’ll have access to wifi, checking in is simply a matter of scheduling a time and finding free or paid wifi. There are other ways to communicate than just voice-to-voice. Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype make it easy to communicate offline via text or even make Internet-phone calls while abroad.

A rented Nissan Micra in Donegal, Ireland. Beware the business travel myths about rental cars!

A rented Nissan Micra in Donegal, Ireland

Myth: Rental cars are inexpensive overseas. While this may be true, what most Americans don’t know is that the price of fuel everywhere but the US is much more expensive. This turns something that appears reasonable into something that is costly. Public transit is much more developed in foreign countries, so utilize the local buses and trams, and use rail passes for the majority of your around town travel. Ride sharing also exists in foreign cities, so familiarize yourself with those apps before you leave. If it’s necessary to rent a car, consider Transfercar, which connects travelers with cars that need to be relocated, or BlaBlaCar, which allows drivers with available passenger seats the opportunity to sell them to travelers needing a ride.
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Travel Hacks and Myths That Don’t Actually Work

September 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The number of travel hacks that have been touted across the Internet as “the way” to get the “best” deal have many chasing the potential for something that isn’t out there.

For example, none of these well-publicized travel hacks for getting a cheaper flight — clear your cache to avoid high airfares, don’t use a Mac, buy 42 days in advance, book after midnight on a Tuesday — actually work.

If you want to get a deal on an airfare, don’t book too early or too late. Booking one to four months out should result in a decent price. And the differences in between prices are not so vast anymore either. You might save $40 or $50 on a discount site, but you may be penalized by not being allowed to select your seats or being more likely to get bumped if a flight is overbooked.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel - Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don't always work. And may be impolite in some cultures.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel – Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don’t always work, and may be impolite in some cultures.

As for booking the best hotel rate, don’t believe the hack about calling the property directly unless you’re negotiating a group rate for a special event. That’s another situation entirely. If you’re thinking that you’ll be able to use your amazing negotiating skills if you can just speak with a human being, think again. Calling a property directly will most likely end up in a reroute to a reservation center. Just go to their website and make sure to enter your loyalty number. If you don’t have one, join their loyalty club and then stick with them for future travel. That will always get the best rates.

Finally, if you don’t join a loyalty club and every dollar counts, check a meta-search website instead, such as Google or Kayak.com, Booking.com, or Expedia. Cross-check your findings with those of the hotel’s website, though, so that you don’t miss a deal there.

“Tipping” the front desk personnel when checking is another travel hack that usually doesn’t work. Most often, the employee keeps the money, not understanding that you were attempting to hack the system and get an upgrade. This does have a better chance of working at fancy hotels in big cities, but even then, it doesn’t always help.

Rental cars used to be able to be procured for deeply discounted rates by making a reservation via travel sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz, or Priceline. Not so anymore. The best deals today are through Costco, AAA, or the rental companies themselves, such as Hertz, Enterprise, National, Avis, and Budget.

If you need an inexpensive rental car, start with the rental companies’ websites, but check the other sites as well. The rental car companies truly have figured out that it’s better to offer great deals directly to their customers than to make them hunt them down on competitor’s sites.

Everyone wants to figure out a way to hack the system and travel cheaper or faster. While it may seem innocuous at the time, many potential hacks may involve lying, bribing, or cheating, and those behaviors only end up creating consequences for the traveling public—often resulting in higher fares and tighter restrictions. So be careful in the hacks that you use.

Your best bet is to join loyalty clubs at your favorite hotel, airline, and car rental agency and stick with them as much as possible. Also, get a credit card that rewards you loyalty points. Your membership in those clubs can get you some extra perks.

What are some travel hacks have you found that don’t actually work? Any painful lessons you learned in your business travel? Share your experiences with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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