TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

How to Prioritize Working Out While on a Business Trip

July 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling can suck the life out of you. While it may seem crazy to think about adding something else to your seemingly already-too-full schedule while you’re on a business trip, choosing to pound the pavement or hit the gym or find your zen really can help. Exercise can restore focus, alleviate stress, boost your endorphins, and improve your sleep. Motivated now? Okay, here are a few ways to incorporate working out into those days away from home.

Plan ahead. If you’re already in the habit of working out and want to maintain your routine, the solution is simple: adjust your schedule and make the time. It may mean getting up 30 minutes earlier and making space in your luggage for your running shoes, but putting it on the calendar will give you a better shot at actually following through than if you just think you’ll fit it in “at some point.”

People jogging in Frankfurt am Mein. Could be on a business trip, or they could just live there. We don't know.

Jogging is a great way to work out on a business trip. All you need are your running shoes and workout clothes.

If you aren’t a regular exerciser, there’s no time like the present to seize the opportunities that present themselves. Let’s start at the airport. Walking between security and your gate instead of taking the train will help you stretch your legs and increase your heart rate without sweating. Those moving sidewalks can be walked on too, but don’t look at your phone while doing so. Better yet, skip the moving sidewalk and count the extra steps. (Make sure you have a good step counter on your mobile phone to keep track.)

Once you arrive at your hotel, take the stairs to and from your room, and consider checking with the front desk for dining establishments within walking distance. You might even go one step further (pun intended) and choose the location of your hotel so that you can walk to your appointments.

If you belong to a gym at home, check its website to see if there’s a location in the city you’re visiting. You know those workout rooms you’ve seen signs for or walked past on your way somewhere in the hotel? Those places actually exist and would allow you to walk or run on a treadmill or pump your legs on a stationary bike.

Swimming is also great exercise, and a swimsuit and goggles don’t take up much room in your suitcase, and your workout is only limited by the pool’s hours of operation. Investigate options for joining a class at a local yoga studio or find a mobile website or app that will provide a stretching routine you can do on the floor in your hotel room. You can also take a travel-sized yoga mat, and some higher-end hotels even provide them for guests. Do this before bed to encourage your mind to let go and wind down for the day.

Working out requires intentionality and perseverance. To help you work toward the achievement of a health goal, think about signing up for a race or setting a few goals using a fitness tracker like Fitbit, Leaf, or Misfit Shine. As Nike has been urging for nearly 30 years now, just do it. Your trip will be healthier, feel more productive, and you won’t be upset you missed those days when you get back into your routine at home.

How do you prioritize working out on your business trip? Do you maintain your same discipline on the road that you do at home, or are those a few much-needed rest days? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Robert Strauss (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

A Healthier Approach to Business Travel

June 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While the stresses of business travel on the body and the mind have been well-documented, some of you may not be paying attention to some bad habits you’ve developed as a frequent traveler.

When we travel for business, we often look at the efficient use of our time as the benchmark to determine a trip’s success. But if you don’t factor in the extra time you spend preparing for those meetings, as well as the pressure you feel to make a great impression or close an important sale, you’re not putting yourself in the best situation to succeed.

What if, instead, you flew in a little earlier so you could give your body time to adjust to the time difference, or even experience a little down time? You might find that extra time refreshes you and reinvigorates your approach to the meeting at hand.

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OH

Be sure to get plenty of rest while you travel for business.

Prep time isn’t just completing a checklist to ensure you have everything you need before you leave. It’s psychological as well. If you don’t allow yourself the time necessary to prepare mentally — which includes getting sufficient rest — your preparation isn’t complete.

Further, when we travel, our eating discipline might also be challenged. There’s fast food whenever we need something quick, or large portions and rich foods at nicer restaurants. We’re often expected to wine and dine our clients and create an experience for them that communicates how much your employer values them.

If you go into that dinner without giving any thought to the effect the heavy food and alcohol intake will have on your body and your ability to sleep well, you’re also setting yourself up for a difficult morning after, when you’re under pressure to perform your best.

Stress, lack of adequate, restorative sleep, and poor eating all take their toll on business travelers. What if you decided to create a new game plan for your travel that would allow you to treat your body and mind well?

Consider factoring in more time to get from point A to point B, instead of creating a rushed pace. Be mindful of the prep time you need in order to function well. And do whatever you need to perform at your best. That may mean saying no to an unnecessary dinner out and working out at the hotel fitness center, or being careful about what you eat, knowing that sugar tends to stimulate the brain instead of calming it. If you have certain habits that calm your mind and center your soul at home, don’t neglect those practices while you’re traveling.

If you approach business travel with discipline and healthy habits to follow, you’ll be able to accomplish more and the recovery time afterward will decrease.

How do you travel for business? Do you maintain your same discipline on the road that you do at home, or is that a mini break and a special treat for yourself? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

New Warning about Luggage Tags

June 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.

The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.

This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Don't share photos of your airline luggage tags on social media -- the bar code is readable and contains a lot of personal information.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:

  1. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
  2. Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
  3. Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
  4. Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.

Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.

What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Would You Ride in a Driverless Uber?

February 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When Uber began testing driverless cars in several cities (and battled with California over its right to do so without a permit) last year, select passengers who wanted to try the experience weren’t the only passengers in the car. That’s because Uber is conducting research and has operators in the vehicles as it tests them in real life scenarios.

As Uber engineers test the automation, several things are proving to be troublesome for the artificial intelligence to interpret. First and foremost, the unpredictability of human drivers makes it challenging for the AI to compensate. For example, crossing over into the left lane to make a right-hand turn is a scenario that does not compute for the software.

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Another quandary is bridges, so the company chose Pittsburgh specifically because of its many bridges, as a way to iron those bugs out. Bridges are difficult for driverless cars to handle, said Uber’s engineering director Raffi Krikorian, because they lack environmental cues that streets have, namely buildings. According to Business Insider, Krikorian said Pittsburgh was the “double black diamond of driving” and he believes conducting research in that city will help the research advance quickly.

Weather is also proving a challenge because snow, for example, obscures lane markings, making navigation tricky. Uber is also finding other challenges from nature during its tests, such as trees. The cars rely on high-definition maps with landmarks to navigate. In Pittsburgh, the images on those maps were taken in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, so the car can’t determine what the new objects on its route are.
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Rental Cars Still Going Strong in Age of Uber

February 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing services continue to grow, it stands to reason that the emergence of these services would negatively affect the rental car industry.

But it turns out it’s not as cut and dried as it may appear.

Avis Car RentalsAccording to car rental industry leaders, the need that rental cars fill for the public is not the same as the one being met by Uber and Lyft. In fact, according to USA Today, Avis Budget Group reported a three percent increase in revenues over the first three quarters of 2016 and Enterprise Holdings saw a 10 percent increase in its airport car rental revenue in 2015.

So, no real disruption here.

The reason for these upward trends is that rental cars and Uber are not an apples-to-apples comparison. According to Neil Abrams, a consultant in the car rental industry, “Typically, auto rental is lumped into the general category of ground transportation, including taxi and livery services. However, whereas taxi and livery are of shorter duration and mileage, the rental customer normally has a different requirement which demands more time and distance.”
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Tricks to Hack Your Business Travel Budget

February 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Now that most companies are working under a new fiscal year, you may find you need to stretch this year’s business travel budget a little further than before. Here are some of our favorite budget-saving techniques for making the most of your business travel dollars.

Look for hidden costs, and be wary of special “savings.” What looks like a savings could actually increase your costs in the long run. For example, you may find a cheaper hotel on the other side of town from your big meeting, but the commute will eat up the savings in taxi or Uber fees.

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OH

Try to stay in a hotel close to your meeting destination, even if one across town is “cheaper.”

Similarly, if three people are visiting a client together, but all book travel separately, all three have to get to the hotel or client on their own. Even if the flights are cheaper, you may be able to reduce costs if everyone coordinates rides to and from the airport, and even stay in the same hotel. Some hotels will give discounts for multiple rooms, so call the hotel directly and ask for the sales desk.

Use technology whenever possible. There are a variety of mobile apps to help you keep track of expenses, such as apps that let you take photos of your receipts and build expense reports as you go. This eliminates the need to save all your receipts throughout the trip, and risk losing any. You can even export your reports and quickly share them with your finance department when you get back to the office.
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Getting Sick on a Business Trip

February 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Getting sick when you’re at home is bad enough. But to get sick while you’re on a business trip? That’s the worst! You don’t have access to your own bed or your favorite pillow, and you don’t have access to your doctor or favorite pharmacy.

So what should you do if you get sick while you’re on the road?

First, be attentive to your body and your symptoms. If your stomach is sensitive, don’t automatically assume it’s a stomach virus. However, be careful of what and where you eat. Test the severity of your situation by seeing if you can keep down some simple food like a banana, a piece of toast, or some tea without things getting worse. Get your favorite over-the-counter antidote for an upset stomach during the day so you have a potential remedy in case you need it in the middle of the night. Alert fellow travelers or your meeting partners so someone knows to check on you if you don’t show up for the scheduled event the next day.

Hotel Room Remote. Be sure to wipe it down before you use it.

Be sure to wipe these down with a disinfectant wipe before you touch them. Who knows who’s been handling them?!

Sometimes you may think you’re sick when you’re really just overtired. Try to get as much sleep as possible and reassess in the morning. If you haven’t been sleeping in the weeks leading up to your business trip, get as much as you can a couple days before you leave. If you’re too tired, you’re more susceptible to illness.

If the illness progresses and you need to see a doctor, know what your insurance will cover. Don’t leave home without your requisite cards, call your provider in advance to be sure the visit will be covered, and inquire at the front desk or with your in-town contacts to see where urgent care services are located.
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Four Business Travel Budget Savers from Experienced Travelers

February 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Even if you’re an experienced business traveler, there are a few little things you can do to make your next travel experience more expedient, efficient, and economical. Based on our own experiences, as well as those of some of our customers, these are a few travel hacks you can do to save money, time, and your sanity.

Pay premium for the direct flight. The old axiom is true: time is money. And if you’re a business traveler, you’re losing money while you’re in transit, which means you need to find a way to shorten that time. Traveling more legs than necessary just to save money actually decreases your productivity, which costs you more money in the long run.
You can negotiate with your car rental provider on a business travel trip
Every segment you add to a flight also increases the risk of delay or cancellation, which costs time as well as energy. Plus, those who book full-fare tickets, even if they’re in economy, are more likely to get an upgrade if it’s available because the gate agent will know the price you paid by a code on the ticket. Remember, if you get to your destination sooner, you can start working sooner.

Negotiate with car rental agencies. Did you even know you could do this? According to some of our experienced business travelers, you can. While premium cars are more expensive, rental agents may be willing to negotiate if there are available cars in this category, and if they’re not pressed for time with lots of customers behind you.
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American, United Launch Automated Screening at O’Hare

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.

The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
United and American Airlines have installed automated screening at Chicago O'Hare Airport
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:

  • Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
  • Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more

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