The online travel reservation world has been shrinking, and we’re interested in seeing what this means to consumers who book their travel online.
A January article on MultiBriefs.com discusses Expedia’s recent acquisition of Travelocity, which strengthens its hold on the online booking market. According to the article, the company already owns Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, and CarRentals.com.
Since the article appeared, Expedia has also purchased Orbitz.At present, Expedia plans to keep the new brands separate from each other and its own brand — they’ll keep the branding and corporate goodwill, but pull in all their profits.
And although these sites will remain separate, the back end systems may be the same, so pricing will not necessarily be different among the Expedia owned sites. We don’t know what will happen down the road, but we believe shutting down the original sites and switching users to Expedia would tend to lose revenue as unhappy customers migrated to other sites. In many cases, the general public won’t even be aware of the purchases, and continue to use their own favorite site.
One rather meaty issue that has arisen as a result of all this spending on Expedia’s part is the specter of an antitrust lawsuit. Expedia’s purchase of Travelocity and Orbitz leaves just one other major player in the U.S. online travel field, Priceline.
So it doesn’t seem impossible that an antitrust suit will be filed by the Federal Trade Commission.
According to a Dealpolitik blog post in the Wall Street Journal, Expedia is prepped for battle and in fact, included a clause within the Orbitz contract giving them until May of next year to wrap up any antitrust trouble that arises. Giving themselves that much time to work out matters with the government lets the regulators know that Expedia is willing to go to court, which shows their commitment to the deal.
Still, consumers don’t need to worry too much just yet about a lack of competition. Although Priceline and Expedia are the kings of the online travel world, new competitors enter the market place constantly, including companies with massive successes and presence in other areas, such as Google and Amazon.
Photo credit: Shibby (Flickr, Creative Commons)
- Expedia and Orbitz Receive Second Requests from DOJ under Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (prnewswire.com)
- What Expedia and Orbitz merger means (seattletimes.com)
- Priceline Group’s Tiny Acquisition Could Make a Huge Difference (fool.com)
- Should you book with online agency or directly with airline? (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
If you travel more than once every few years, even once a year, you’ll want to get luggage you can return to again and again. If you’re a frequent traveler, visiting the airport or train station more than four times a year, you need luggage that’s going to be with you for the long haul.
So how do you choose the luggage that’s going to give you what you need? The first step is to assess the kind of traveling you’re going to do the most frequently.
Choose luggage based on the size and durability based on your total usage, not just your next trip. Disposable luggage can end up being more expensive than a single piece of high-quality luggage due to the fact that you might have to continually replace it.
You should also check out the warranty information of the piece you’re considering. That will give you an idea of whether the company stands behind their work, and how much protection you have if your bag starts shredding after just a couple months.
It’s also not a bad idea to stay with a well-known brand when buying your luggage. Luggage takes a beating, as travel is never easy, especially if you check your bags at the airport. Look at the value of your chosen bag, not just the price. Don’t compare the cheapest, flimsiest piece of luggage from one line to the best-in-show piece from another line. It’s like comparing apples to sports cars.Assess the various features the luggage has. Check that the moving parts are high quality and durable. Look at the handles, wheels, and zippers, to see if they look durable or flimsy. Also check out the interior of the suitcase and make sure it looks like it will serve your needs as you travel. A good luggage manufacturer will have tested these things already, to determine whether they meet their high standards.
Finally, visit a specialized travel goods store, which will allow you to test the luggage extensively. The staff are very knowledgeable about travel and luggage, unlike some department stores. The travel goods stores also get feedback from frequent travelers, so they know what actually works.
If you’re not sure of what bag to get, it could be worth paying the travel goods store a visit, because they’ll understand what you need and can help you figure out which bag you should get.
How do you assess your own luggage purchases? Do you look for anything in particular, or visit a particular kind of store? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page, and let us hear from you.
A CNN article in March discussed some of the challenges associated with traveling with young children and how to determine when your child is old enough to travel.
We were intrigued by the idea but it also made us think about the benefits of traveling with young children. Some families travel with their kids to give them a new experience. Even young children, around three or four years old, are traveling with their families to Brazil or China. Those kids are experiencing different cultures in a way that many of us never will.
We’re not sure exactly what the right age is for kids to really learn something from travel. If they’re too young they may not get much out of it. But what’s that age limit? On the one hand, they may pick up some appreciation for different cultures and foods. On the other, they may learn patience just from sitting still in a car or plane for several hours.
My daughter is three, and I’m not sure she’d learn a lot from international travel, but I think it would be fun and good for her to expose her to different cultures. It just depends on how she would handle it. On the other hand, a colleague says she wouldn’t take her sons to restaurants at three.
It really depends on the temperament of the child and the patience of the parents. You have to make the call yourself on what is the right age for your child.
It’s a great idea if you have the means and the time to do it, but we don’t think there’s a magic age when it all happens because it’s so subjective and depends so much on each child.
Another important factor the article mentions is that you can make travel easier by choosing to drive or to schedule flights at times that are best for your child. We know someone who would drive from Indiana to Disney World by leaving at 10:00 pm, when his kids were asleep, so they would sleep through most of the drive. Of course, he was wiped out by the time he got there, but it was much better than dealing with unhappy kids during the daylight hours.
What age did you (or would you) start traveling with your children? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.
We’ve all heard that we should be careful when traveling alone, and we sometimes worry that this keeps people from traveling at all.
The whole “you need to be comfortable with yourself” philosophy aside for the moment, we think it’s possible, and even enjoyable, to travel by yourself.
We recently read an article in Women’s Health about traveling alone. Although the article is aimed at women, men could benefit from some of the tips as well, such as dressing more conservatively than you would at home, especially if you’re going to visit a country where the culture is very different from your own.
Also, avoid dressing like you’re going to Home Depot on a Saturday morning. Try to fit in more with the local fashion, if only to avoid being identified as a tourist. Keep your gadgets, if you have them with you, hidden away in public places in order to avoid scrutiny and increased security.
If you want to meet people while traveling, go on a group trip as an individual. This way, you can meet people without having to make too much effort as it’s a lot easier to make new friends within such a group. Going somewhere as a volunteer is another great way to meet new people because in most cases, you will work together with others as a team to accomplish something meaningful.
We also liked the advice “be unapologetically selfish.” When you travel alone, you get to see only the things you want to see, so you can skip the collection telegraph pole photographs just because someone else wanted to see them. And you don’t have to visit the museum everyone else says you “have to” see.
One of our employees is a woman who has traveled extensively for business. She said these tips apply for business travelers too, because she tries to make some time to see the sights. She strongly recommends having a game plan in mind for what you want to see. This is especially important if you’re traveling on business, because your free time will be fairly limited.
She says she has a hard time taking the “Be unapologetically selfish” advice in the article to heart, but was intrigued by the idea. She thinks that both women and men should make an effort to have some down time just for themselves while traveling.
What special things do you do for yourself, or special precautions do you take, when you’re traveling alone? Do they work more for personal travel or business travel? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.
- Travelzoo reveals the most popular destinations for female solo travellers (dailymail.co.uk)
- In Transit Blog: A Break for Those Who Cruise Alone (rss.nytimes.com)
- Why I Love Solo Travel and My Best Moments With It (creativehearttravel.com)
- Solo Travel: Refreshing and Restorative (huffingtonpost.com)
A recent article in Yahoo travel about the mistakes that travelers tend to make got us thinking about our own advice for travelers.
One tip we make over and over is not having cash in hand before we set out on our travels. Although we mostly recommend that travelers use their cards when traveling and to have a limited amount of cash before you set out is extremely helpful because some places in the area you’re visiting might not take cards (for example, the toll booths on the Florida turnpike don’t take plastic).
One of our employees has upcoming travel plans that include Spain and he plans to get Euros at his bank before he heads out. He says that using ATMs overseas can be dicey in that you may have your card flagged. We also feel that the exchange places at and near the airports can be overpriced.
We also believe not researching your destination is a huge mistake. Know what you want to visit before you go. Otherwise, you may end up in a beautiful area and not know what’s so great about it. Smartphones can help in this case, but they may not know important tourist destinations could be booked or you could arrive on the wrong day to hit a hot spot. Know before you go.
Our same globe-trotting employee took a list of destinations on a recent trip to Italy. Once he got there, he and his family cut back on the list and talked to locals about what was really worth their time. They ended up having the best possible trip because they were able to create a big list and cull from it, rather than try to decide where to go each morning, and miss better sights and venues.
The article says that relying heavily on public transport is a mistake. However, we tend to think that renting a car is the bigger mistake relating to getting around while traveling in a foreign land. That’s because it’s hard to really understand the traffic patterns and it’s certainly difficult to navigate when you can’t read the road signs.
It’s probably better to rent a car only if you plan on staying somewhere for an extended period of time. Stick with the public transportation whenever possible; in many of these countries, especially Western Europe, they excel at public transportation, and many locals don’t even own cars because the transportation is so good.
What are some of the travel mistakes you’ve made? What have you seen other people do? Leave us a blog comment or post something on our Facebook page.
Music is an integral part of travel for many of us. And the advent of mobile devices, whether mp3 players or mobile phones, has made traveling with music easier than ever. Sitting in your seat with ear buds or perhaps a set of Beats by Dr Dre embracing your head can be a great way to avoid talkative seat mates, if you’re the sort of person who prefers not to chat in transit.
But which is the best option? Should you take your phone and use up precious battery life and even more precious data? Or do you take an extra mp3 player, like an iPod Classic, and have one more device to keep track of?
As usual, it depends on your own needs and preferences: what are you doing, and what do you need the device for?
If space and weight is an absolute concern, just take your phone. Any smartphone on the market today can store music and stream music from one of the streaming services such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or even Stitcher for podcast fans.
But an mp3 player can be a great option if you have space or data concerns or if you want to work out while you’re traveling and prefer not to use your phone while exercising. It’s also a great option to avoid wearing down the battery on your phone while you’re in transit.
A small iPod shuffle can be extremely convenient when you’re traveling. You can easily stick the device in your pocket or clip it to a clothing item so you don’t lose it. And since it was specifically marketed for those that work out, it’s a great option if you want to work out on the road.
Another choice to make is whether you should store music on your device or use a streaming service such as Pandora iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Stitcher. Storing music on your phone takes up storage space, while using a streaming service uses data and your service may cut out while you’re in transit, unless you want to pay for wifi on the plane.
But no matter whether you bring your smartphone or your mp3 player and no matter how you store it, take a moment to remember that people used to make mix tapes or CDs.
How do you listen to music when you travel? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.
- Smartphone Music Apps To Pay Attention To In 2015 (hypebot.com)
- Best MP3 Player Deals are Right Now (dailytwocents.com)
- WHO recommends just one hour of music everyday to avoid hearing loss (techienews.co.uk)
It’s never a surprise to hear that Amazon is planning to do something new, but this may be a little unusual: the online bookseller company has now decided to venture into the hotel booking business.
We recently read a Skift.com article about details about the contract, which discusses how they’re compensating the hotels and what type of commissions Amazon will receive for the service.
We actually didn’t even know Amazon was getting into the travel business, but it makes sense that an online mega-player such as Amazon would jump into the lucrative hotel marketplace. The company has already dipped its toes into the hotel booking pool by offering severely discounted, last minute deals via Amazon Local, which is a service similar to Groupon, but less well known.
The new scheme will expand that market significantly and allow hotels to list full price rooms.
It’s hard to say how their prices will shake out in comparison to discount travel sites at this point and it will be fascinating to see how this foray will work out for them. We’re especially interested to see how they stack up against Expedia, which we consider to be the main powerhouse in the travel website space.
Since Expedia has just gobbled up Travelocity, Orbitz, and other travel websites, we’ve seen a trend toward consolidation. It will be interesting to see how Amazon’s entrance affects all of that. Although the older companies have a big head start, Amazon is known for introducing change into the marketplace just by being one of the biggest.
According to the Skift article, Amazon Local first began discussing the plan with hotels last September and is already testing out the scheme in limited marketplaces.
What do you think about Amazon’s entrance into the travel space? Would you book a hotel room through them? And have you ever heard of Amazon Local before? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page, and let us know if you’ll use Amazon for future travel.
- After Travelocity, Expedia Also Snaps Up Orbitz (pcmag.com)
- Why you should check prices on hotel websites before ordering from a mega site (geektime.com)
- Expedia to buy Orbitz for $1.6 billion (computerworld.co.nz)
- What the recent travel tech deals mean for the hotel industry (tnooz.com)
With a number of embarrassing, and very public, hits to cruise ship safety over the last several years, cruise lines are looking at the airline industry as a standard for safety. A recent article in Businessweek looked at how cruise lines are responding to three huge safety failures in 2012 and 2013, including the infamous grounding of a cruise ship in Italy in 2012 and two serious fires in 2013.
The cruise lines have realized that they need to focus on being safe by reducing crew errors and increasing safety protocols.
Since the 1980s, safety has been a high concern for airlines. They’ve pioneered many programs that cruise lines now hope to adapt for themselves. They have seen that crew error is the largest risk factor in any type of accident, so they’re working to reduce those first.
Another way airlines have increased staff efficiency is to randomly send personnel out for an annual performance check of pilot performance in the cockpit. The cruise line is considering that as well.
Another airline safety protocol is to track data from the cockpit related to any deviation from standard procedure and finding out why it occurred. This could be an important protocol to increase cruise ship safety.
What do you think about cruise ship safety? Would you venture out into the high seas after these issues that have arisen over the past few years? Leave us a comment on the blog or our Facebook page to let us know what you think.
- Best Cruise Ships of 2015 Released (wnep.com)
- Considering A Cruise Ship Vacation? What Consumers Need To Know (ivebeenmugged.typepad.com)
- Not All Cruise Ship Amenities are About Forgetting You’re on a Ship (jaunted.com)
- Star Wars is headed to the Caribbean on Disney Cruise Lines (antiguaobserver.com)
Traveling with your children isn’t like running down to the grocery store with them. Just like you need your own passport and other travel documents, you need to have certain documents with you when you travel with your kids.
The Huffington Post has an extensive and helpful list they suggest you carry with you when traveling internationally with your family.
Obviously, a passport isn’t going to be a necessity on domestic trips, but HuffPo suggests you bring physical copies of the following: your child’s birth certificate, a signed permission slip if there’s a parent who isn’t traveling with you, vaccination certifications, travel insurance, emergency contacts, telephone numbers for healthcare facilities at your destination, emergency first aid instructions, a list of your child’s allergies, and your full itinerary with contact information.
The list makes a lot of sense, although it may be a little too thorough. Be aware that carrying all that paper documentation can be a security risk. (Think about what happens if that information were stolen.) But you can keep a lot of it on a cloud-based app, such as Evernote or Google Drive, which you can download to your phone or tablet as needed.
On the other hand, what if your phone charger is damaged or you end up in a remote site with no service? With Evernote, you can download documents to your phone’s app, and then lock it with a security code. Otherwise, you could end up with a huge phone bill if you need to access another country’s wireless network to access the information.
Be sure to do your research before you travel and know what you need. You may not need everything on this list for some of the places you’re visiting, so it’s better to determine it in advance.
Photo credit: Caribb (Flickr, Creative Commons)
- How to Get a Certified Copy of Your Birth Certificate (dumblittleman.com)
- Easy Family Travel Tips (formulamom.com)
- The next great place for your family adventure (alloverthemap.net)
A recent article on Lifehacker got us chatting about which travel upgrades seem worth it to us, and which were a waste of money.
There were differing opinions on the Travelpro team about whether shelling out for extra space is worth the additional cost. Those of us who feel hemmed in on flights, especially those of us who are tall (I’m 6’5″) said they will pay extra, especially for longer trips. Those who are more frugal (or smaller) said they don’t see a big difference in comfort and recommend snagging an aisle seat since that can give you the illusion of more space. Another good way to increase the amount of space you feel like you have is to keep the under seat luggage to a minimum. It’s worth it if you need the room, but a waste if you’re smaller, or the trip is shorter than two hours.
We didn’t like the idea of paying for wifi, either at the airport or your hotel, especially if you’re on vacation. And even if you’re traveling for business, we suggest you trot down to a local coffee shop to get wifi while you sip a nice latte. Another option, which the article also mentions, is paying for a mobile hotspot so you have your own wifi wherever you go. And apparently, the new iPhone 6 includes this as a feature you don’t even have to pay extra for the bandwidth. (Another reason to upgrade sooner rather than later!) This one is a waste, unless you get the iPhone or other mobile hotspot.
A luxury we can get behind is the concept of club floors at hotels. These are special floors that serve meals, snacks, and drinks. You pay extra for the access but you do get pampered and you can eat there instead of going out. This feature adds about 20 to 30 percent to your bill, which is fine for those who don’t plan on eating out very often, making this worth it for the home bodies. It’s pleasant to be pampered, but foodies may not find it worthwhile. But if you’re going out more than staying in, or you prefer local eateries to chain food, this one is a waste.
A luxury the article doesn’t discuss is the option of paying for a day in the first class airport lounges. This typically costs about $50 for a day. It’s a great idea if you’re traveling for business or if you have a particularly long layover. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than the rest of the airport. Wifi is included and the staff make sure you know when your flight is getting ready to leave. This one is definitely worth it.
What are some of the worth it/waste upgrades you’ve found on your travels? Leave us a comment and let us know.