How Can Airports and Airlines Use Wearable Technology To Enhance Passenger Experience?

April 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Today’s travelers are more connected to technology than ever before. From smartphones that stay glued to our hands, to smart watches such as the Pebble and Samsung Gear, and even to what we see with Google Glass, the modern traveler is permanently intertwined with tech. So how can airlines use this technology to create a better passenger experience? Here are a few predictions we can make based on what we’ve seen.

English: Photo of a mobile boarding pass (a 2D...

English: Photo of a mobile boarding pass (a 2D Aztec code bar code on an Orange San Francisco smart phone) on top of a paper boarding pass, printed after online check-in, for a KLM flight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The easiest way to improve a positive passenger experience is to get rid of the boarding pass. This old paper relic from the past can be replaced by an app that lets you check in to your flight. Most major airlines already have this kind of app, and we think in a few years, the digital boarding pass will become the standard, and the paper version will be used less and less. This could drastically improve the speed of checking in for your flight and shorten the amount of time wasted at the airport, creating happier travelers. Also, think of the elimination of paper from an environmental perspective across all the world’s airports.

Google Glass can be incredibly effective when traveling, especially for those inexperienced air travelers. The front display can act as a GPS device that actually directs you to your gate, as well as provide real-time updates of the flight status. And whereas you are liable to run into others around you when looking down at a smartphone or watch, that will not be an issue with Glass. Because the information is presented directly above your field of vision, you will not have to worry about trampling, or being trampled by, other travelers.

Or how about using your mobile phone to pay for your meals and snacks at the airport? Rather than carrying credit cards, many people in Kenya and other parts of Africa use the M-Pesa mobile payment system on their phones. And not just smartphones, but regular flip phones as well. Google Wallet is already making inroads into this area of tech, and we think it may become a standard form of payment in the near future.

All of this technology is a few years away from being implemented but once it is up and running, it can be used as a stepping stone to promote the convenience of the passenger. Soon afterwards, biometric data, such as finger and iris prints, can be utilized to identify passengers. Security officers could use tools similar to Glass to increase security measures.

The entire travel industry could be completely disrupted with this new technology. What are your thoughts about this “brave new world” of travel?

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Is Common Sense In Travel Dead?

April 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

When you’re traveling or on vacation, you want to feel relaxed and at home. When you feel relaxed and at home, you let your guard down, and things can get stolen. When things get stolen, your vacation becomes a nightmare, and you’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Don’t let your guard down when you’re on vacation.

MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room

MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Say you are going down the hallway to get ice in the hotel and just leave your door ajar because you’ll be right back or you leave your Kindle or iPad on your chair to go to the restroom. But when you get back, you discover your tablet is gone and your room has been burglarized. You’ve been the victim of a robbery, all because you assumed you and your belongings were safe, just like at home. This is why it’s important to travel smart and keep your guard up. You’re not at home, which means you have to be on your guard.

A recent article in USA Today said that travelers and experts believe that common sense in traveling might be dead. We don’t necessarily think that common sense is out the door — unlike your iPad and wallet — but these stories of carelessness are becoming more prevalent as more and more people travel. We are traveling more than we ever did in the past and as you know, planes are packed with people.

Technology is making it easier to travel. Your smartphones and tablets willl let you go anywhere and do everything for you so you don’t really have to think. And when you don’t know the smarts of traveling, you are more likely to be the victim of scams. Keep in mind that you are in a different place and need to keep smart and use common sense to avoid getting out of touch with reality. There are an increasing number of stories of horrible accidents that travelers get themselves into because they were not thinking. One of the culprits is an over-reliance on technology, and the other is letting your guard down.

Remember that when you’re traveling, you’re not in the cyberworld, but in the real world. Keep your eyes open, listen carefully, and be aware of where you are. And don’t let your trip or vacation turn bad because of a simple mistake you made. Stay smart and bring your brain when traveling.

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Big Travel Changes In 2013

March 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The travel industry has changed immensely in the last few years, thanks in large part to Millennials and their travel habits. Commonly referred to as ‘Gen Y’, this tech savvy generation has caused big changes within the travel industry over the last year. Here are three surprising changes we’ve seen take place.

Home-As-Lodging > Hotels

Airbnb sticker

Airbnb sticker (Photo credit: Effie.Y.)

Many savvy travelers are skipping chain hotels in favor of lodging through sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO. These sites enable travelers to book anything from a spare room to an entire home in cities around the globe for significantly less than hotel room rates. This trend is especially appealing for group travelers who want to stay under one roof, budget travelers looking for cheap digs in a good location and solo travelers who wish to stay with a local. The home-as-lodging trend is so hot, that Airbnb is expected pass InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide and become the globe’s largest hotelier by the end of 2014.

Indie Travel Guides > Tours

Savvy travelers are forgoing the mainstream guides and booking tours through sites like Sidetour, Getyourguide and Canaryhop. Such sites hook travelers (and locals) up with unique city tours, classes and experiences in major cities around the world, making them a great way to get off the beaten path and meet locals.

Ridesharing > Taxis

Cabs can get expensive. Enter ridesharing programs like Lyft and UberX, which enable travelers to hitch a ride with a (fully-vetted) person in their personal vehicle. Ridesharing is significantly cheaper than taxi rides, and thanks to their apps, they’re also much more convenient to use in cities where it’s difficult to flag a cab. While the concept may seem a bit sketchy, many travelers report that the experience is actually much more positive than a traditional taxi experience.

With the travel industry changing so rapidly, we’re excited to see what changes are in store in the upcoming year.

Have you tried out any of these newer services while traveling? If so, we’d love to hear your experiences. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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How Do American Airlines’ New Planes Compare to JetBlue’s?

March 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

First class is officially getting an upgrade. American Airlines recently released its new transcontinental fleet at JFK airport. Perhaps the most impressive is the new Airbus A321, which will run from JFK to LAX and SFO (Los Angeles and San Francisco). This particular plane is positioned to be American Airlines’ answer to JetBlue’s new premium product, the aptly named ‘Mint’, which will also run from JFK to LAX or SFO. There are many similarities between these new planes, so how do they compare?

To start, American Airlines’ A321 is the first plane to offer a three class cabin featuring first class, business class and coach. JetBlue, however, only offers two levels: coach and Mint. Both airlines will offer fully-lie flat seating. On American’s A321, lie-flat seating will be available in both first and business class. Additionally, AA will offer Main Cabin Extra seating for an additional fee, which offers six inches of additional legroom.

English: DFW American Airlines Departure

English: DFW American Airlines Departure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If sleeping on planes isn’t your thing, you’re in luck: both carriers offer extensive entertainment options via personal in-seat entertainment. American will offer a 9-inch HD-capable touchscreen with up to 120 movies, 180 TV shows, 350 audio selections and 30 games in addition to wifi via Gogo. JetBlue’s Mint service will offer 15 inch interactive video screens featuring up to 100 channels from DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio and access to Fly-Fi, which claims to be the industry’s first high-speed satellite-based Internet service.

When it comes to meal options, JetBlue appears to be the winner. While American Airlines will offer the ability to order entrees before your flight, JetBlue is kicking things up a notch: they’ve partnered with renowned New York restaurant Saxon + Parole to create a unique small-plates menu. Additionally, Mint passengers can enjoy full-bottle wine service.

While both flights will also offer complimentary amenity kits, Mint has taken theirs to the next level by partnering with Birchbox. Each kit will be filled with “editor-approved” beauty, grooming and lifestyle products and treats.

With amenities like these, long-haul transcontinental flights are looking more and more appealing. With first class amenities such as these, we wouldn’t mind a few extra hours spent in-flight…

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Bring This, Not That: Layers vs. Big Coats

March 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

How many times have you left home in a big coat and regretted it the minute you arrived at your destination? Even a trip to the mall in the winter can make a big coat seem like a bad idea when you have to lug it around, after only needing it to walk the 200 yards from your car.

When traveling during cold months, many travelers assume they need to bring their big coat to keep warm. It works, but there’s a better option: layer up and wear several light shirts and a fleece, rather than one shirt and a heavy coat. You have more flexibility with changing temperatures by wearing many layers, not to mention that you won’t have to haul that giant parka around with you.

Going Through a Climate Change

If you are traveling to a very cold location, like Finland in January, a big coat is probably a must. But if you can avoid bringing it to a place like St. Louis in March, why not? You may save room in your suitcase by wearing it onto the plane, but you still have to mess with it. Whether putting it in an overhead compartment, or carrying it around when you find out it’s not as cold as you thought, big coats take up a lot of space.

That being said, it may useful to wear that big coat, especially if you’re going to be outside a lot. But if you’re only dashing from cabs and cars to restaurants and offices, skip the coat and layer up.

If you are traveling from a cold climate to a hot one, layering is definitely recommended. You won’t want to carry that coat around in a warm climate and it is easier to add or subtract a few layers when needed. Plus you can pack them away when you don’t need them.

Bottom Line: Focus on Common Use

Think about packing for your most common use, rather than your peak use. Look at what you will be doing the most during your trip, rather than the worst situation you’ll only face once. Will you be outside most of the time in single digit temperatures? Then a big coat is a must. Otherwise, we recommend sticking with layers, thick and thin shirts. Layers make it easier in a temperature change and offer variety in climate changes you aren’t used to.

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Frequent Flier Miles Being Devalued

March 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve been thinking about signing up for an airline’s loyalty program, you may want to think again. Some airlines are devaluing their frequent flier mile programs, making free airline seats harder to earn.

Several years ago, airlines said they would never be so bold as to change their loyalty programs. They were afraid that if they changed the program, passengers would go elsewhere. You could earn large blocks of miles and obtain a free ticket fairly easily.

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...

Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, airlines have been consolidating, making less competition for booking airfare. Therefore, they have more flexibility in changing their loyalty programs, adding more blackout dates, increasing the cost of rewards, and decreasing the point value of flights.

Peter Greenberg said on his blog that not only are frequent flier miles becoming harder to redeem, but also that the points to every dollar ratio are decreasing. This means that depending on the airline, your points can be up to 25% less in value.

Why is this happening? Why are airlines making it harder to be loyal to them?

It’s because airlines are already flying at close to full capacity, and there are fewer seats available on the market, which means the airlines don’t need to work quite as hard to earn your patronage. And since people are already paying for seats, why give one away? Ultimately, this is one of their methods to stay profitable. And one of the things that is suffering is the frequent flier programs.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how to earn points without being confined to a loyalty program that could be changed in a few years. You could always earn points on a credit card, something that I do on a regular basis. The value of the points you earn on credit cards can exceed the airline benefits and you are not confined to one air carrier when you book your air travel.

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Bring This, Not That: Tour Guides vs. Self-Guided Tours

February 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

So you’re traveling to a new country and you want to explore a bit. How do you do go about it? Should you hire a tour guide to take you around, or should you grab a map and venture out on your own? There are plenty of reasons to go either route — no pun intended — and either has its pros and cons.

Tour Guides

Tour guide at Paul Revere's Grave, Boston MA

Tour guide at Paul Revere’s Grave, Boston MA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hiring a tour guide, whether local or from a travel agency, is a go-to option for many travelers. And why not? You can sit back and enjoy the sites as someone else does the hard work. They have all the knowledge and can share insider knowledge of all the best locales.

The downside is that you’ll spend extra cash for these guides to show you around; self-guided tours are free (except for the attractions themselves). Another point to ponder is whether you want to have a structured tour where you know where you’re going ahead of time, or if you’d like to be surprised as the guide shows you around. Just be careful with some tour guides because they often have formed relationships with the places they stop at, so they may have financial interests in making those stops.

Self-Guided Tours

You may be a go-getter and think a tour guide is not for you. The upside of this type of exploration is that you’re not on a time constraint and can explore a place as long as you like, or leave after a few minutes. Self-guided tours are also cheaper, because you’re not paying someone to usher you around. If money is a concern, you may want to try this option.

A pitfall with this type of tour is that you could end up flopping around aimlessly and miss out on a few important places if you haven’t done your research. So put some time into figuring out where you are going and have a plan, including a prioritized list of “must see” versus “could miss” venues.

Bottom Line

Whether you hire a guide or grab a map and go out on your own is solely up to you. The important points to consider here are cost, your personal preferences, and where you are.

This last point is important, because personal safety is also a consideration. There may be some places where it’s not safe to venture out on your own, so the best way to see the area is with a guide. In these situations, work with an established, reputable tour guide, and not someone you just met at the airport. Don’t venture out on your own, and make sure to follow basic common sense in ensuring your own safety.

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6 Ways Air Travel Will Change in 2014

February 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely already noticed the airline industry has been making some big changes over the last few years, and 2014 will be no different. In fact, many new trends and test projects we reported on in the previous year are set to become mainstream in the upcoming year. While many of these new changes will be for the better, some may leave passengers feeling, well, a little uncomfortable.

1. Airports will become more efficient

Boeing 727-223 of American Airlines at Chicago...

Boeing 727-223 of American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Travelers can now look forward to a quicker check-in process at airports thanks to the DIY bag tag trend. As we reported last year, airlines have been testing out self-tag options in various high-traffic airports, and with great results. American Airlines has reported that the new system has sped up check-in times by 55%, and Iberia has experienced similar results. Additionally, thanks to the growing popularity of programs such as the TSA PreCheck program, airport security lines are moving a bit faster. The TSA is now looking to expand the program to over 100 airports in the upcoming year.

2. Discount airlines fly across the pond

If you’ve ever turned green with envy at the sight of low-cost fares in Europe, you’re in luck. A few new transatlantic carriers (such as Iceland’s Wow) have entered the scene. Thanks to their fuel efficient jets, we may soon be able to cross the pond at a more affordable rate.

3. Taxes and fees will go up

Before you get too excited about cheaper transatlantic fares, hold your horses. If you thought fees couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. They’re expected to go even higher in the upcoming year. However, these fees may be ones that you’re actually willing to pay for. In addition to more fees, taxes will also go up in 2014. Thankfully, it’s not too bad: the security fee for a round trip flight will be raised from $5 to $11.20 — a difference of, well, the cost of a bottle of water at the airport.

4. Seats will get smaller

If this isn’t motivation to revisit that New Year’s resolution to lose weight, I don’t know what is. Boeing is now manufacturing 17″ seats. Let’s hope you like your seat neighbors, because you’ll be getting pretty cozy.

5. You’ll stay connected

Not only will you be closer to your seat mates than ever before, but you may also get the opportunity to eavesdrop on all of their conversations. The FCC is looking to allow air passengers to make cell phone calls in-flight, much to the chagrin of most travelers. Sadly, you may never be able to use that “sorry I didn’t answer that email, I was on a flight.” excuse ever again. More airlines will be adding in-flight WIFI and even power outlets.

6. Private jets will go mainstream

Now that seats are getting smaller and planes may be getting noisier, you may be wishing you had access to a private jet. Surprise, you do. Companies such as JumpSeat are now offering innovative new jet sharing programs to the masses.

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Travel Advice You Should Ignore

February 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, a friend posted a note to Facebook asking people for advice on the best way to travel through Europe. Within a few hours, his post had received over a hundred comments, and each commenter provided a strong case for why their suggestion was best.

When it comes to traveling, everyone seems to have advice on everything from building an itinerary to when, where, and how to book reservations. While your friends will probably offer you plenty of sound tips, there are certain bits of travel advice you should simply avoid.

Here are five popular travel tips that you’re better off avoiding.

1. You should book your flights as early as possible

Travel Guides

Travel Guides (Photo credit: Vanessa (EY))

Many people insist that the earlier you book your flight, the better. While you absolutely shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to book, you should also not book more than two months prior to your departure date for international travel, and one month for domestic. Anything before that, and you run the risk of paying more.

2. You’ll get the best rate by booking directly through the hotel

A lot of people believe they’re getting the best rate possible by calling the hotel to book a reservation. While this may be true some of the time, it’s definitely not true all the time. In fact, one major hotel chain’s website promises they’re offering the absolute lowest price available, but I’ve booked the same rooms for $20+ cheaper per night on a third party site.

3. You’ll save money by staying at an all-inclusive resort

This truly depends on where you’re going, when you’re visiting, what’s included in the package and how much you typically spend on meals and drinks while vacationing. For some people, an all-inclusive resort may truly be a great deal. However, if you’re someone who typically dines on a budget and doesn’t plan on racking up a large bill at the bar, you may save yourself a few hundred dollars or more by staying elsewhere.

4. Buying a Eurail pass is the most affordable way to travel through Europe

Again, this varies from situation to situation. However, if you’re bouncing from country-to-country and not spending much time within a single country, you will likely find that it’s cheaper to either buy single tickets or fly via a discount carrier.

5. You should bring plenty of cash when traveling

While it’s true that you should bring some cash when traveling, you shouldn’t bring too much. A good rule of thumb is to bring enough cash to cover you for one to two days in case you have issues with your debit or credit card. Anything past that, and you’re tempting fate. Your bank will cover fraudulent transactions on your card – but if you lose that cash, you’re completely out of luck.

We’d love to hear from you. Have you received any travel tips that turned out to be bad advice? Share with us in the comments section.

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How to Handle Weather Delays and Flight Cancellations

February 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Unless you’re one of the lucky few that live in areas that haven’t been hit by extreme weather this winter, you can probably attest to the fact that at times, this year’s weather has made it nearly impossible to even go to the grocery store, much less travel. By the end of January, thousands of flights had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions.

Whether you’re traveling soon or in the future, it always pays to be prepared to successfully handle a flight cancellation.

1. Avoid connecting flights at certain airports

Snow in MN Airport

Snow in MN Airport (Photo credit: nengard)

While the recent snow and ice down south has proven that at times, it can be hard to avoid severe winter weather, there are certain regions you’ll probably want to avoid flying in and out of during the winter months. If you have a few different options for your layover, try to avoid airports in the Midwest, Northeast and Rocky Mountain areas.

2. Know before you go

A few days before your trip, check the weather forecast for your destination and any layover cities. If you’re heading into severe weather conditions, contact the airline to see if they’ll allow you to rebook or change your flight route without penalty.

3. Stay alert

Sign up for flight status notifications from the airline you’ll be traveling with. When flights are cancelled, time is of the essence — if you wish to get put on a new flight, you’ll want to be one step ahead of everyone else.

4. Act fast

If your flight is cancelled, you’ll need to act fast in order to land a seat on another flight. If you’re already at the gate when your cancellation is announced, chances are everyone will rush over to the desk agent for assistance. Avoid the mob. Call the airline’s 1-800 number or walk down to another gate serviced by the airline and get assistance there. While you may instinctively visit the carrier’s website for assistance, your best bet is to speak to a real, live person.

5. Know your alternatives

If you think there’s a good chance your flight will be cancelled, do a bit of research before your trip and find alternative flight routes. In the event that your flight is cancelled, you’ll be well-prepared to get re-booked quickly, and perhaps via an option that the desk agent hadn’t even been aware of.

Do you have any tips for successfully surviving flight cancellations? Share them with us in the comments section.

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