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.

TSA to Market PreCheck, Limit Airlines’ Role

September 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The TSA is making some big changes to the PreCheck system, the program that lets pre-qualified travelers breeze through airport security because they’ve already been vetted by the TSA. The TSA has a goal to increase the number of PreCheck-qualified travelers, as a way to reduce the bottlenecks at security checkpoints.

The PreCheck program saves times for travelers, of course, but it also saves time for the TSA agents, allowing them to focus on finding real threats.

English: TSA Passenger Screening

TSA Passenger Screening (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a article, there are now 4.6 million travelers authorized through the program; TSA would like to increase that to 25 million.

Their plan is to increase marketing the program and pushing it more aggressively.

They also plan to limit the role airlines play in the PreCheck process. Previously, airlines had been able to submit travelers to be approved through PreCheck, usually members of their frequent flyer program. This was done on a somewhat random basis and you could never predict if you would be approved or not. That will no longer be the case. Travelers will need to actually apply in order to qualify for PreCheck.

What this means for infrequent travelers is that many of them didn’t realize they could actually apply for the program through the TSA and get approved on an ongoing basis to be able to use PreCheck regularly. It seems like a no-brainer. If you can save time at the airport, why not do it? We encourage everyone to apply.

Are you in PreCheck? What has been your experience? Share your stories in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Boeing Adding More Carry-On Luggage Storage Room

September 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Rollaboard owners rejoice! Boeing is trying to solve the ongoing carry-on luggage problem by adding bigger overhead bins.

According to a new Travel Pulse article, the new bins, called “space bins,” will carry more luggage than the previous bins. This will hopefully ease the stress and strain put on travelers and flight attendants as more people try to sneak larger bags onto flights.

Boeing Space BinsThe new bins will also be easier to load and see into, which is helpful since more than one traveler has been hit on the head by people removing heavy bags they didn’t quite realize they couldn’t carry.

One drawback is that it will decrease head space a bit.

It will be interesting to see how Virgin Airlines reacts to the news, given they recently said the interior plane space is actually the most valuable space. They were discussing charging for carry-on bags, and allowing free checked bags. Will this move be a revenue generator for them?

From Boeing’s perspective, they’re likely responding to requests from the airlines, who are hearing from customers. Right now, the airlines want to continue to charge for checked bags and allow carry-ons. Those passengers looking to save some money will be better able to maneuver their carry-ons and fit them into the new large bins.

Meanwhile, we’ve also been hearing some airlines are considering reducing the allowed carry-on sizes to accommodate more passengers using their carry-ons. However, Delta has said they plan to allow carry-on sizes to remain the same as they have been in the past.

We like the idea of the bigger bins. If you could turn your carry-on bag sideways (which is what Boeing is suggesting), you can fit six bags into the space instead of four. The loss of headroom does not seem like a great loss, especially since we’ll all be sitting. We’ll see if that continues to be the case or if headroom will be subject to shrinkage like everything else on the plane.

What are some of your ideas for getting more (or fewer) carry-on bags into the plane? Leave your ideas in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Boeing Media Room

Boeing Patents New “Cuddle Chairs”

September 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The name sounds weird, but “cuddle chairs” may change the way we travel and sleep on planes.

Boeing has recently patented a new travel chair that will allow passengers to sleep more comfortably by leaning forward into a backpack-like extension.

Boeing is calling them “cuddle chairs.” You sleep upright with your face resting against the cuddle chair, which attaches to your seat. It has a place for your face, so you can easily breathe. It’s like the hole on a massage table when you lie face down.

It’s nice to see Boeing think about customer comfort, but we’re not sure that cuddle chairs are going to cut it. Titling forward is not that great ergonomically sound although it may be better than other popular sleep options, such as slumping over sideways in your seat and leaning on whoever happens to be seated next to you.

Tilting forward could put a strain on your lower back, so we’re wondering if they have done research on the positioning. I was talking with Scott Applebee about this recently. He has a background in office furniture and he says that good office chairs should have a slight backward tilt to it, which you obviously won’t get from the forward lean of the cuddle chair.

The backward tilt opens up your body cavity a bit so you’re not putting stress on your lower lumbar. You don’t really even want to sit up straight, let alone forward. There are ways to lean forward but still keep your back in a good position but it doesn’t look like the cuddle chair will let you do that.

Another thing that concerns us is the feeling of being trapped by a device you strap around your head. Will the cuddle chairs really be all that cuddly? We’ll have to actually experience the cuddle chair before we decide if it will really work.

What about you? Will you try the cuddle chair if it’s ever available? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Video credit: The Patent Yogi (YouTube, used with permission)

How Protecting Time Off Improves Performance

September 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

These working vacations we’re so fond of, these take-your-laptop-to-check-email vacations we take with the family, may be harming our overall performance on the job.

A recent article by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) discusses the need for workers to take quality time off from their jobs.

These days, many folks cart laptops or at least smartphones with them and stay in touch during the entirety of their time “away” from the office. While this can be necessary at times, it can also lead to burn out and feelings that their vacation wasn’t truly a vacation.

English: Rental cabins near the Great Smoky Mo...

Why would you want to work when this is your view?! Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sevier County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time off is something that supports employee buoyancy; the ability to bounce back easily from stressors. Buoyancy is something every employer should encourage because an office filled with stressed out, grumpy employees with no tolerance for stress creates even more stress for everyone.

“True time off” can be taken if the employee plans ahead of time. Amy Fox, the article’s author, says that her company lays out a timeline for employees before time off that includes planning for who will cover, and talking with clients about what will happen during the vacation. She says that she encourages employees never to use the phrase, “if you need to reach me.”

At TravelPro, we like to encourage everyone to take real time off and not do any work at all. While I don’t do any work while I’m away, I do like to go through my email once a day to make sure I don’t have a jammed inbox when I get back.

It’s even possible to extend vacations because of the capability to take care of simpler tasks on the go and leave very important tasks until you’re back in the office. Since many of us can work anywhere, why not spend a few weeks out of the office working from an Airbnb or vacation rental?

How do you spend your vacations? Do you shut everything off completely, or do you cheat and work while you’re gone?

Leave your favorite practices in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Can You Get Your Checked Bag Faster By Checking in Later?

September 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Does the “last in, first out” rule apply to airline luggage the same way it does a bus or elevator?

The short answer is “No,” and Yahoo Travel explores why this luggage myth is just that.

The author, Christine Sarkis, asked Delta about baggage delivery, after spending a rather anxious time waiting to retrieve her bag on an international flight to check it back in again for her domestic trip.

English: Baggage handlers loading a Northwest ...

Baggage handlers loading a Northwest Airlines airplane at LAS (Las Vegas Airport) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer? Luggage is distributed into the hold based on weight rather than when it’s checked in. When the luggage is loaded, it’s all done up in a very scientific fashion to help balance out the plane’s load.

In fact, for large planes, the luggage is loaded into “cans” (big boxes), which are loaded onto the plane to spread the weight out evenly. While it’s not completely random, your bag could be in any of those cans, depending on the total weight of each can.

Smaller planes practice “loose loading,” which means they load the luggage into the hold based on weight. They work to get the balance right, so even then, there’s no LIFO to the bags.

We’re very curious about exactly how this works and would love to get an insider tour of how the baggage handling process works, but when we asked a Travelpro team member to ride in a bag with a GoPro camera, he said no.

Meanwhile, we would be thrilled to hear any insider stories from baggage handlers or even be invited along on a luggage handling tour.

When it comes down to it, says Christine Sarkis, the only two ways to get your baggage more quickly is to fly business or first class or to carry it on yourself, in which case all you have to do is reach up into the overhead bin to retrieve your precious cargo. This is also a great way of ensuring that you don’t lose your luggage.

Do you have any other tips for retrieving your luggage faster on a trip? Let us hear from you. Leave your tips in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Amazing Airbnbs That Still Fit Your Budget

September 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airbnb has not only brought some big changes to hotel travel, it has even introduced travelers to some very exotic and wondrous properties.

Yahoo Travel recently discussed Airbnb rentals that are truly amazing places to stay. Although Airbnb is considered a budget travel site, it doesn’t always have to be a place to find hole-in-the-wall accommodations. In fact, there are quite a lot of nice places to stay.

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

And some places are amazing and affordable. Three particular places the article calls out include a glass tree house in the Tuscan forest, a Scottish castle, and a restored windmill in Santorini.

Who wouldn’t want to stay in such a place? And even if you’re not looking to stay in someplace quite so over the top, you can still find really nice spaces right in the heart of expensive cities for quite a bit less than you’d pay for a hotel in the exact same area — and with more amenities, like a kitchen or an actual separate bedroom.

We especially liked the boot house in New Zealand and all of us around the office want to stay at some of these places. They look very enticing.

Airbnb is something of a wonderland. You could create quite a unique getaway just in the properties, staying only in the places with a lot of charm and unique settings. Or you could even try a tiny house and see if you would actually enjoy joining the tiny home living trend. Since it’s a major lifestyle change for most people, diving in through Airbnb might be a good way to try it out.

On the other hand, a castle would be at the other end of the spectrum. You could get a party together to stay and split the cost in order to make staying in such a huge space affordable for everyone. (Or if you wanted to join the less popular living-in-a-giant-Scottish-castle trend, you could check that one out as well.)

The options on Airbnb are almost without limit. If you haven’t checked it out yet, try it out on your next trip and tell us what you think. Or if you’ve already stayed in an Airbnb, let us hear from you. Did you like it? Would you recommend it to friends? Or are you happier in a hotel? Leave us a comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Andy Hawkins (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Indian Airline IndiGo Removes Check-In Process for Domestic Passengers

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Indian Airline IndiGo is making air travel easier for its domestic passengers within India. According to a Future Travel Experience article, IndiGo is using something called an “Integrated Travel Document”, which means passengers don’t have to check in manually.

Instead, they choose a seat and meals when they purchase tickets and are immediately emailed a boarding pass along with their travel itinerary without needing to check in on their own.

IndiGo AirlinesThis is a great way to allow passengers to avoid waiting in lines at the airport. We’re not sure that this is something that would “fly” in the U.S., but on the other hand, many U.S. carriers do allow passengers to print out boarding passes the day before a flight, or check in with their mobile phone.

On the other hand, there are not a lot of automatic bag drops here, so passengers who need to check a bag will still need to go through the bag check-in process. We’re also not sure how IndiGo is handling that process.

Future Travel Experience notes that it had previously reported on automated check-in making strides last year. “The likes of JetBlue, Finnair, Air France, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, ANA and Flybe have either trialed or implemented auto check-in, but IndiGo has now taken it a step further by integrating it into the booking process,” it notes.

We’re looking forward to seeing how this plays out within the U.S. and whether automated luggage drops will being to make travel a bit easier within the U.S.

What do you think? Would you like to receive an automated boarding pass right when you book your flight instead of having to mess with checking in 24 hours before your flight leaves, or even standing in line at the airport? Tell us in the comments section below or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Kurush Pawar (Flickr, Creative Commons)

4 Tips to Never Losing Your Luggage Again

August 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in U.S. News travel notes that lost airline luggage has become something of a rarity. You have a less than 1 percent chance of losing your luggage. However, it’s still worth your while to make efforts to keep yourself out of that 1 percent. Here’s how.

Give the airline plenty of time to deal with your baggage by arriving early to your flight and not booking yourself into connecting flights that have extremely tight windows. If you have to rush to go from one flight to the next, so does your luggage, and the baggage handlers may not be as fast as you. (Plus, you can save yourself the headache and anxiety of racing to make that next flight.)

A baggage handler unloading bags from the moto...

A baggage handler unloading bags from the motorized ramp underneath an recently-landed airplane in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make sure your bag is clearly identifiable. You can do this as easily as tying a colorful sock or ribbon to your handle. Next, avoid putting anything of high value into it. Placing a Monet painting into your checked luggage is a great way to ensure someone steals it en route. If you need high-value items at your destination, or want to take them home, have them shipped via courier and get the replacement insurance.

You can also add a tracking device to your luggage. These days, such devices are easy to come by and using one is a great way to better ensure you’ll be reunited with your bag after your plane lands. The devices use GPS tracking and your smartphone to make sure you find your luggage, so at the very least you can tell the airline representative where your bag is.

And finally, know your rights when it comes to lost luggage. There are a lot of rules around lost luggage and many of them benefit the airlines (for instance, there is a list of items that they will not replace, including that Monet painting). Know them before you ever leave the house, so you know what you can and can’t take, should and shouldn’t have, and what you can do to protect yourself if you ever become one of the 1 percent.

How do you keep track of your luggage when you fly? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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