Cheese It, It’s the Baggage Police!

November 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Ever feel like you’d like to conduct a citizen’s arrest of a fellow passenger whose oversized baggage clearly violates the size limitations for what is considered carry-on? Several airlines are deploying their own “baggage police” to try to enforce carry-on compliance among their passengers.

Jetstar in Australia and United have begun instructing employees to eyeball customers at security checkpoint entrances and instruct them to return to the ticket counter to check their bags. United has even placed new carry-on compliance boxes at its counters and has sent an email to frequent fliers reminding them of the policy.

But can either airline truly carry out this policing? We love the sentiment, but we’re not sure it will last or be picked up by other airlines.

English: Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340...

Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340-600 aircraft (economy class). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The issue seems to be the lack of industry standards, both domestically and internationally. Airlines don’t mandate checked baggage on certain flights even when they know the plane being used won’t be able to accommodate even a normal carry-on bag. Instead, airline personnel hand out gate-side checking tags issued for all carry-on luggage, so it can be gate checked and stowed in the regular luggage hold. Why is this?

The answer has to do with overhead bin space and consumer retention. An industry standard for carry-on bags cannot be enforced because the amount of overhead bin space is different with each type of airplane. Some have small bins on one side, designed only to accommodate briefcases, backpacks, and small duffels, while the opposite side has large bins for traditional carry-on luggage.

This means that not all passengers have equal access to that coveted real estate. If it can’t be made available for everyone, enforcing a standard isn’t possible. Bigger airlines have already heard consumer complaints on this issue. No carrier wants to get a bad rap for being a strict enforcer when others aren’t.

It is true that baggage storage issues contribute to boarding times, and can impact an airline’s record of on-time departures and arrivals. But unless equal space is available, it doesn’t seem that airlines are going to have much success enforcing baggage limitations with passengers. Until that day, we advise: Keep calm and carry-on.

Do you have any carry-on luggage horror stories? Share them with us in the comments below or
on our Facebook page

The Pros and (Considerable) Cons of Bus Travel

November 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Some people really like a deal. Others are gluttons for punishment, especially reporters who need a column topic.

Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, recently profiled Megabus and his experience traveling from New York to Silver Springs, Md., to Knoxville, Tenn., to Lexington, Ky. The entire itinerary cost him $63. But was it worth it?

Haven’t heard of Megabus? Well, perhaps you’re not cash-strapped and looking for the cheapest possible way to get to your desired destination. Megabus’ fares start at $1. No, that’s not a typo.

English: Megabus #58538 sits on the west side ...

Megabus #58538 waiting to depart on the Megabus M24 line. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Serving the 14 of the 50 states, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and eleven countries in Europe, Megabus is all about bang for the buck.

Megabus is a double-decker, climate-controlled, clean coach that will get you where you need to go, but it doesn’t boast it will do much more than that. Still, it’s not trying to pass itself off as something that it’s not. It’s no-frills, affordable, reliable way to travel. Period.

Megabus is just the latest iteration of bus travel. Greyhound popularized affordable mass ground transportation and became a favorite of those averse to flying. My sister was one of those travelers.

While she lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., the rest of the family lived in Jackson, Miss. In order to visit us, she would embark on a road trip that took 48 hours end-to-end. Her trek included long layovers at terminals in major cities as well as circuitous routes between her Point A and Point B. You could say that she wasted all kinds of time en route, but she preferred it to flying, and she thought it was completely worth it.

So, if you don’t have much money, but have to get somewhere within the United States or Canada, consider Megabus. Just remember Seth’s biggest suggestion: pack a pillow and a blanket.

How to Entertain and Inform While You Travel

November 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember the vacations you took with your parents? If you were lucky enough to fly, your entertainment only needed to last a few hours. But if you went over the river and through the woods to wherever you were going, then time yawned ahead of you. Unless you were properly prepared.

Nowadays, there’s no way you can possibly be bored while en route to your destination, thanks to all the entertainment and information available online? You might hear someone utter a few choice words if they discovered they didn’t have the latest episodes of their favorite podcast, that ebook they’ve been waiting to start, or the latest game app at their fingertips because they didn’t realize there wouldn’t be wifi.

iphoneSo, don’t be like those unfortunate souls. Take a few moments in the days before your trip and assess your entertainment and information needs. Perhaps you want to catch up on your favorite television show. Download recently aired episodes to your tablet or be sure to add the Netflix app to your phone so that your queue is ready to go.

Second, and the Delta app are excellent ways to keep track of your flight status and can be shared with your ride at the airport, so they’re not endlessly circling or waiting in the cell phone lot, wondering where you are. The Trip Advisor app can also let you spend your time in the air planning activities when you land.

If you want to get some work done while en route, set up your documents folder to sync to a cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud so your work isn’t stranded while you’re soaring through the real clouds. Evernote is also a great place to store travel information, and it isn’t wifi dependent.

New podcasts appear every day and most are a free, quick way to learn new information or while away the time. Note to Self and Serial come to mind. Check Overcast or other podcasting apps to find a few favorites.

If you’re traveling with children, a new game app can buy you valuable minutes of silence. If you haven’t investigated this realm lately, believe us, there’s so much more than Angry Birds. Try Noodles or Two Dots. The fun thing about Two Dots is that you can download the soundtrack and enjoy it as background music if you don’t want to play the game.

Travel time doesn’t have to be down time. It can be productive, entertaining, and even relaxing. Just make sure you download and sync everything before you leave home or your hotel, and you won’t be dependent on airport or airplane wifi.

Photo credit: jeshoots (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

CBP to Expand Pre-Clearance Facilities

November 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The last thing an international traveler wants to deal with after a long trip is getting through customs. It’s always an unknown, like playing a game of roulette. Will it take a few minutes or will it take an hour?

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in discussions with 10 additional overseas airports to roll out the “welcome home” banner by instituting pre-clearance processes similar to what it already has in place at 15 other international airports. It’s a lot like the TSA’s Pre-Check program, where select individuals can bypass the TSA checkpoint and walk right to their gate.

English: US Immigration and Customs at Shannon...

US Immigration and Customs at Shannon Airport, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Pre-clearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a DHS press release.

CBP currently offers this service at nine airports in Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnepeg, as well as airports in Dublin and Shannon, Ireland; Aruba; Nassau, Bahamas; and Bermuda. When passengers fly through pre-clearance airports, they are treated similar to passengers on a domestic flight.

The 10 proposed new sites include: Tokyo’s Narita International; Brussels, Belgium; Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Oslo, Norway; London Heathrow and Manchester in the United Kingdom; Madrid, Spain; and Instanbul, Turkey.

Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of the CBP, said that pre-clearance helps identify security threats. Last year it expedited re-entry for 17 million US-bound passengers.

Here’s how the process works: while in flight, passengers complete a simple customs form. Upon arriving, they are directed to a self-service kiosk. The kiosk scans their passport, photographs them to ensure their identity matches the passport, scans the customs form electronically, and issues a receipt. A customs officer scans the receipt and may ask a few questions. Then he or she sends the passenger on their way.

And they get to go home a little bit faster.

Four Travel Myths Busted

November 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We all think we know the ins and outs of air travel, knowing as much about the rules and tendencies of airlines. But it turns out, these hard and fast rules aren’t nearly as hard or fast as we previously thought. Good Morning America and Yahoo recently busted four travel myths, and discussed how they’re not always correct.

Economy is always cheaper than first class. Not so. It depends on the route and how many stops you’re willing to make along the way. For instance, the same flight between LA and New York could be $500 less in first class than it is in economy if you’re willing to incorporate a stop into your travel itinerary. If you’re more interested in saving money than time, it’s a good idea to investigate flights with at least one stop. It might take you longer to get there, but the first class amenities might make you forget all about the time.

English: S7 Airlines Boeing 767-300.

S7 Airlines Boeing 767-300. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Non-stop flights are “never” cheaper. It’s possible they aren’t, but this statement misses the real question: how valuable is your time? Time is money, especially when you’re talking about valuable, not-getting-it-back vacation time. If you want to have more time on vacation, and less time traveling, you may want to spend the extra money on that nonstop flight.

Discount airlines “always” have the cheapest flights. Again, no blanket statement can ever bear the weight of being true 100 percent of the time! The only way you’ll know which airline has the cheapest fare is to comparison shop. Use a comparison website like Expedia or Travelocity, and then check out the airlines’ websites themselves. You may occasionally find the big legacy airlines are offering the cheaper flights.

Summer flights are “never” delayed as much as winter flights. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Thunderstorms can involve severe turbulence, lightning strikes, icing due to sudden temperature change, hail damage, and water ingestion by the engines. When thunderstorms occur at or near hub airports, the probability of any of these occurring can halt inbound and outbound traffic, which in turn can create ripple effects to more destinations than a severe winter storm in the Dakotas.

The takeaway is there are no absolutes in travel, and myths are often just that. If you can be flexible and do your due diligence, there’s a good chance you can find a flight that will suit your needs and your desires.

Busting Thanksgiving Travel Myths In Time for the Holiday

November 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether you live across town or across the country, everyone dreads the travel hassles that seem to accompany Thanksgiving. This year we want to ease your stress by debunking some of the common myths surrounding turkey travel — you already have enough stress spending time with family.

We found a recent USA Today article that debunked a lot of Thanksgiving travel myths, and will hopefully put your mind at ease.

While many think the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, that’s not the case. According to Julie Hall, public relations director for AAA, it is the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving weekend, but it isn’t the busiest travel day of the year.


Thanksgiving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, the busiest travel day of the year in 2014 was August 8, according to the Department of Transportation statistics. The day before Thanksgiving is only in the top 10. See, we’ve already reduced your stress a bit.

Another myth is that more airline delays coincide with Thanksgiving; this also is wrong. According to Christine Sarkis at, Thanksgiving travel has averaged a 19 percent delay record over the past three years, while there has been an average delay of 22 percent in travel just from January to August of this year alone. So, we’re already three percent better.

Frequent fliers also have reason to be relieved. Most airlines no longer have blackout dates, but they do charge more miles for tickets during Thanksgiving week. So, just avoid traveling back on Sunday, when airlines really jack up the “points price,” and you can get back home without losing your shirt.

In fact, you might even be surprised to find a last-minute deal to a popular tourist destination and decide to ditch the extended family gathering altogether! After all, the “you’ll never find a last minute airfare deal” myth is just that: a myth. Just don’t bank on it. Plan ahead as much as possible.

Finally, keep in mind that while the Wednesday before Thanksgiving isn’t the busiest travel day of the year, remember that car travel that day will be its heaviest between 3 and 5 p.m., so you can avoid sitting and do more cruising if you get an early start, like in the morning. You can always nap when you get there.

Better yet, leave on Tuesday morning. Tell your boss we said it was okay.

Happy trails, and happy Thanksgiving, from Travelpro!

Travel Hacks You Can Use Anywhere

October 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In our last blog post, we talked about hotel hacks you can use while you’re on the road. With a little ingenuity and a few of the complimentary items most hotels offer, you can have a semi-civilized existence if you need food, a shave, to shine your shoes, or to even remove unwanted odors.

Another travel hacks video from Dave Hax tells us how to pack and travel with just a few simple items to make packing easier and our time on a plane or train more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned.

  • If your shoes get dirty while you’re sightseeing, use the hotel shower cap to cover the soles. If you suffer from SFS (smelly feet syndrome), help yourself (please!) to the teabags in the hotel room and use them as shoe deodorizers.
  • Don’t want to bring your laptop protector but need something to protect your computer inside your suitcase? Fold your hoodie around it and you’re good to go! Your hoodie can also be used as a makeshift pillow. Provided you’re not already using it as your laptop protector.
  • If you’ve never learned how the Marines fold their clothes to make the most use of their duffel space, read our post on making a skivvy roll. It’s genius, and it helps you count pairs of underwear, socks, and t-shirts easily.
  • If you don’t want to watch the in-flight movie, and don’t want a crick in your neck from hunching over your phone, pack a sandwich bag in your carry-on. Place the phone inside the bag and use the tray table clip to hold the bag at viewing level. Then, poke a small hole in the bag for your headphones. If you don’t have a bag, you can fold your sunglasses and use them as a stand.
  • If you have a hard time remembering your room number, take a photo with your phone when you arrive.
  • If your phone battery is running low and you don’t have a lot of time to charge it, put the phone in “flight mode” and it will charge faster.
  • For all you McGyver fans out there, a clean, empty lip balm tube can be used to hide rolled-up bills when you’re going out.

With these tips, your next trip can be cleaner, more efficient, more enjoyable, and adequately charged. What other hacks do you use when you travel? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Hotel Hacks To Use On Your Next Trip

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Nobody wants to bring more than necessary when they travel. It’s especially important issue when going overseas. When considering what to pack and what to leave at home, we found a clever video on hotel hacks filled with examples of how to use items in your hotel room, to save space, weight, and help you get by in a pinch. (You can watch it below.)

Granted, the video and ideas were made in Europe, but most hotels have the same amenities around the world, which means they’ll work almost anywhere.

  • Pack with resealable bags. If you want to keep your clean clothes smelling clean and contain the “aroma” of your other clothes, pack your clothes, or separate outfits, in resealable bags. The video also suggests tossing your smelly jeans into a bag and putting them in the freezer to alleviate the smell. According to Levi CEO Chip Bergh, you should never wash your jeans, so the video’s idea of freezing them in the hotel refrigerator overnight to tame their “aroma” could have some merit.
  • Use body lotion to polish your shoes. The maid service may not be happy with your use of the washcloth as an applicator, but it’s better than leaving one with real shoe polish on it.
  • The television in your room will most likely have a built-in USB port on the side or back. Since it’s challenging sometimes to find a conveniently located electrical outlet for a charger, use the USB port to charge your phone or tablet.
  • The drinking glass neatly arranged by the ice bucket for those mini bar purchases can be used as a speaker for your phone (sans beverage, of course), creating an amplifier for your phone. Never sleep through your alarm again, but be careful not to knock the glass over in your morning stupor.
  • If you don’t take our advice with suggestion #1, then you may have some. . . unpleasantness wafting from your suitcase. Unwrap one of the complimentary hand soaps and drop it in your suitcase. The scent may do something to mask the smell.
  • Did you step in the puddle by the shower and now find yourself with wet socks? Simply stick the hair dryer into the sock, turn it on, and a few minutes later — et, voila. — dry socks.
  • If you order room service and want to save the leftovers, use a new shower cap to cover your plate. The food will eventually spoil, but this will extend the life. Don’t forget, a new shower cap.
  • Some European hotels provide an electric kettle for making tea. If you’re traveling on a budget, you can swing by a convenience store for some supplies, and just eat in your room: use the kettle to boil eggs, and make instant oatmeal, ramen, and rice. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse the appliance. American hotels use a coffee maker, but the water may not get hot enough to boil eggs or rice.

What are some hotel hacks you’ve used in the past? Share them with us and give us a few hints for our next road trip. Leave them in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Google Enters Travel Booking World

October 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve been thinking about going to Montreal or New Hampshire in a few weeks to see the fall colors. When you start your search process, you notice that Google is offering to not only help you book your flight, but your hotel as well.

The ubiquitous tech giant is now dipping its proverbial big toe even deeper into the travel booking pool with its new initiative, “Book on Google”. And it has some of the other booking websites a little nervous.

Montreal, First YMCA. Now Hotel Gault.

Montreal’s Hotel Gault. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google is currently conducting a beta launch in North America with 20,000 hotels that allows travelers to remain in its own navigation system from initial search to completed booking. Google’s partner? Sabre, the biggest global distribution system in the world used by more than 350,000 travel agents to access accommodation information.

The new “Book on Google” is the next generation of Google Hotel Ads, a search engine that searches other search engines and compiles the results for available hotels. What “Book on Google” provides that Google Hotel Ads doesn’t is direct booking all the way through to payment on mobile devices from Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ platforms.

The hotels share the commission with Google and Sabre. This program complements Google Flight, which resulted from the purchase of ITA software, a flight information company, in 2015.

So now you can book a flight and find a place to lay your head without ever leaving Google. What’s next? Google room service, please.

Would you book with Google, or have you already done so? Let us know what you think in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Smoking Materials

October 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a smoker and you’re trying to figure out how to travel so that you and your cigarettes arrive at the same destination, here’s the latest from TSA about what smokers can and cannot bring with them.

According to the TSA website, you can put two, full standard disposable or Zippo lighters in your checked suitcase, but they must be packaged in DOT approved packaging. The TSA site isn’t specific about what this packaging is, so if you want clarification, call before you fly. Torch and micro-lighters (fancy cigar lighters) are prohibited from checked baggage.

Gauloises red german and asian white lighter.

Gauloises red german and asian white lighter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In your carry-on luggage, you can bring one disposable or Zippo lighters. One matchbook of safety matches is also allowed. Micro- and torch lighters are not allowed, and neither are single strike-anywhere matches.

With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, TSA has said they can be brought in either checked or carry-on luggage, but the accompanying e-juice must comply to the same regulations as all other carry-on liquids. Just in case you thought otherwise, e-cigarettes may not be used on any flights. Those fumes will set off the bathroom smoke alarms just like regular cigarettes.

While we’re not necessarily advocates of smoking, we recognize that people will want to be able to take their smoking materials with them. There was no real explanation as to how many cigars or cigarettes you could bring, but you’ll want to take care not to smash them as you pack your suitcase. Of course, you can always purchase your smoking materials when you arrive at your destination and avoid the problems altogether.

Have you run into any problems bringing your smoking materials onto a plane? How did you handle those situations? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Next Page »