Bring This, Not That: Work On a Vacation

May 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

At TravelPro we encourage folks to take “real” vacations where they can truly unplug, disconnect, and fully relax.

However, I’ll admit to weeding through my email inbox and taking care of easy emails during the break, just so I’m not buried on my first day back. That can almost take the joy out of time off!

But other than that, I don’t take work with me during the time I’m supposed to be enjoying time with my family. I think it’s important that we distance ourselves from work as much as possible. Here’s why you should leave your work at home the next time you take a vacation.

A change of scenery can let you refresh yourself mentally. People with stressful jobs may need a break. We think there should be an opportunity to shut off and log out. Studies have shown that taking time off is actually good for you both physically and even professionally.

Cruise ship Norwegian Dawn leaving Ney York Ci...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taking time off can actually help rejuvenate your work life. You come back with a renewed sense of energy and perhaps even a different perspective. Things that seemed like huge problems before your trip no longer seem so daunting. People who seemed extremely annoying no longer make you grit your teeth. And you may find that a true break makes you appreciate your job when you come back because you can almost see it with new eyes.

On the other hand, some folks enjoy working while traveling because it gives them the ability to take longer vacations. Or they have a job that allows them to work from anywhere, thus encouraging a lifestyle of more travel and exploration, without needing to be “at work.” In those cases, you can take longer vacations if you take work with you.

Even if you plan to work during your vacation, if you’re going to family events, focus on your family and be present rather than investing time in going through work on your phone. It can be seen as rude, especially if you don’t get to see them very often.

What are your thoughts on taking work on vacation? Have you? Would you? What are some ways you disconnect from life at home while you’re on a break? Leave us a comment below or stop by our Facebook page and share your thoughts.

4 Ways to Prevent Your Miles From Expiring

May 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airlines are tightening their mileage programs, raising the rates, and setting expiration dates on unused miles. This has travelers looking for new ways to get additional miles, and to hang on to their old miles until they can finally reclaim them.

The Huffington Post recently addressed one of the frequent traveler’s most burning dilemmas: how do you keep your frequent flier miles from expiring?

English: Express by Holiday Inn, Inverness The...

Holiday Inn Express, Inverness, Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, it’s a good idea to keep track of your miles, especially if you’re using more than one loyalty program. The article suggests AwardWallet as a helpful tool. It not only keeps track of your miles, but also alerts you when something is about to expire.

HuffPo also notes that most programs simply require some form of activity every 18 to 24 months in order to keep your rewards on board. And in some cases, not much activity at all is required in order to count. You can often find partners that work with the airline or hotel and do something simple, such as ordering flowers, to keep your miles active.

Best of all, all the miles renew when you do this, not just certain miles as many people think.

Other options include using a hotel or airline website as a shopping portal for your online purchases.

You can even trade miles around using an online travel point exchange, such as points.com.

For instance, if you have 5,000 Holiday Inn Points and 20,000 Delta points, for around 10 percent of the points, you could transfer the Holiday Inn points to your Delta points account. This is very helpful if you have no upcoming plans to stay at a Holiday Inn.

It works almost like a co-op or a bank. The companies themselves aren’t working on these exchanges but simply allowing people to trade points via the points.com website. It’s a really handy way to keep at least some of your travel points alive.

What are you doing to keep your travel points from expiring? Share some of your best tips with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

How is Airbnb Changing the Travel Industry?

April 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve no doubt heard of Airbnb, the online travel site that allows travelers to book stays in private homes and apartments, working directly with the hosts. It’s a fantastic way to get a good deal on a room, find a larger space to rent, and even meet local people while you’re traveling.

Many of the rental properties are actually private homes with rooms where travelers can interact with hosts on their own stomping grounds. You can also rent entire homes, cabins, or apartments for one night, or a few weeks.

You can chit chat with your host, eat a home cooked breakfast and get travel tips straight from the locals sitting across the table from you.

According to a recent segment on CBS News, Airbnb booked 37 million room nights last year.

Sansome & Lombard Streets in San Francisco

Sansome & Lombard Streets in San Francisco

“It’s not just a gamechanger, it’s a huge gamechanger,” said travel writer Peter Greenberg.

Airbnb is mainly a place for leisure travelers not business travelers, although if you wanted a little adventure, business travelers can partake as well.

In San Francisco, Greenberg noted, there are almost as many Airbnb available as there are hotel rooms.

And in a place like San Francisco, which is so expensive, looking for a homeowner with an affordable spare room is a fantastic option for tapped out travelers.

We even know someone who rented a room in Manhattan for $90 a night while nearby hotels were around $200. She even got free parking in front of the apartment building.

Another friend booked a small cabin in rural Idaho on a working goat farm, where she and her family were treated to ice cream made by the property owners and daily romps with goats.

We suspect that Airbnb is only going to grow and get bigger and better, especially as people are trying to stretch their travel dollars, as well as expand their horizons.

Have you ever stayed in a Airbnb property? What did you think? Would you do it again? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Photo credit: Brad Coy (Flickr, Creative Commons)

5 Hotel Scams You Need to Know About

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve talked about hotel scams in the past, but it’s always good to review alarming information from the world around us.

We found a Yahoo Travel article on different travel scams that revealed some of our old favorites, as well as several new ones worth bringing to your attention.

When you’re staying at a hotel, the restaurant menu under the door is an old trick. Someone slides a menu under your door. You call and order takeout, and trustingly give out your credit card information. Except that’s no restaurant on the other end of the line. Instead, it’s a thief taking down your info and using your card information for nefarious purposes.

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI Pusdiklat Dep...

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beware of wifi skimming. This happens when a scammer sets up a “Free Wifi” hotspot for you to sign onto. Once you do, your passwords can easily be harvested by the scammer. Just resist the urge to sign on when you see free wifi.

It’s very easy to fake but if you know what to look for, you should be able to see the signs. Small things like a @ or % at the front of the wifi name, or Free_Hotel_Wifi mean you should avoid those like the plague.

A new (to us) scam we never thought of is the faked hotel views. For instance, before booking that expensive beach view hotel, check out the address on Google Street View and see if it really is close to the beach. With Google Street View, you really can see the view from the particular place you’re renting.

Another common scam is the fake front desk calls. They’ll tell you there’s something wrong with your credit card, and could you please give them the number again to confirm it. If you get that kind of call, go down to the front desk and make sure they actually did call you.

Have you ever been scammed? What’s the one people have tried on you? Leave a comment and let us know if there’s anything new we should watch out for.

Travel Secrets You Can Learn Sitting Next to a Pilot

April 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You can learn a lot from people, even on your travels, if you just talk to them on occasion. While most people don’t like to talk to their seat mates on a plane, a recent article on Yahoo revealed a few secrets the author, Leah Ginsberg, learned when flying back from Central America seated next to two off-duty pilots.

One of the things we had never thought of was to wipe everything in the vicinity of your seat down with antibacterial wipes. We were also surprised to hear that you should never touch the faucet handles in a plane. Apparently, pilots know some terrifying facts about germs on planes, although there’s always the possibility that this particular pilot happens to be a germaphobe.

Still, we plan to travel with antibacterial wipes until we hear differently.

We also learned why plane windows are oval: Original plane windows were square, which for some reason was more open to cracking. And cracked windows can lead to window blow-outs, which lead to plane crashes. So next time you’re on a flight, take a moment to appreciate the safe rounded-corner window you’re looking out of.

And pilots, it turns out, are just like us! They like to look out the window, they use travel hacks, and they get tired of each other after long periods spent in each other’s company.

Ginsberg also noted the two pilots she sat next to paid careful attention to the flight attendants directions and followed the rules like champions.

What’s something cool you’ve learned from flying, whether it’s about airplanes, or just from a fellow (non-pilot) passenger? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Marriott Tests In-Room Netflix Service

April 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re staying in a Marriott hotel and find you miss your Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, and don’t want to chew up the data on your cell phone, you’re in luck. Marriott is planning a new in-room entertainment service that includes access to the three entertainment streaming services.

A Yahoo Travel article reported that Marriott is working with a number of different content providers to get their different hotel chains up and running with the latest in on-demand programming.

English: Copenhagen Marriott Hotel Dansk: Cope...

Copenhagen Marriott Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We think this is a smart move on Marriott’s part, because it not only helps the people who already have the service, but it could be a lower-cost alternative to the in-room movies or trying to catch up with the shows you may have missed.

Its usefulness will boil down to how much it costs. Hotels already charge a lot of money just to watch movies, so if this service will cost an arm and a leg, it may not be worth it to many travelers.

On the other hand, sometimes when people are bored and trapped in a hotel room, they’ll pay for anything. What else can explain the continued existence of the minibar?

And if Marriott can come up with an affordable way to do this, especially for people who already have accounts, or make it affordable for people who want to take the services for a test drive, it seems like a great idea.

It also seems like allowing people to view Netflix on the hotel TV instead of wifi would be a great way to free up some wifi bandwidth, which tends to get bogged down, as people watch Netflix on their laptops and tablets.

However, Marriott seems to also be exploring the option of allowing guests to upgrade to a paid “premium” Internet connection.

Since guests with Netflix and similar accounts can already access those services through wifi, they could get a guaranteed high-speed service. Or Marriott could throttle video streaming through their regular wifi, which would force viewers to shell out for the extra bandwidth.

Access to movies and music that doesn’t have to endure a long load time can perhaps be considered worth paying for, especially if your kids need it to settle down after a long day on the road.

What do you think? Would you pay extra for Netflix in your hotel room? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Bring This, Not That: Should You Take a Taxi, Hire a Car, or Drive to the Airport?

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When you’re going to the airport, what’s the most cost effective way of getting there and getting home again? Should you hire a cab or an Uber driver, or even a black town car? Or should you park your car in long-term parking?

In some cases, this really is a “six of one, half dozen of the other” scenario. So how do you figure out which is the better choice?

English: A checker taxi cab. Deutsch: Ein Chec...

A checker taxi cab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always prefer to hire a car to take me to the airport if we’re going on vacation. I’m already going to have to pay for parking if we drive our own car, which can really add up if it’s an extended stay. Out of pocket, the car service will be more than parking, but the convenience can outweigh a lot of things.

For one thing, I prefer a car service because being dropped off curb side saves on a lot of stress, especially if the whole family is going. So it’s always important to look for a car service that is decently priced, because prices can vary quite a bit.

Other considerations are the distance to the airport. How far away are you and what is the cost to get there by yourself in your car versus hiring a car or taxi? If you’re close to an airport, it’s a lot more economical to take a cab.

The airport pricing for parking varies. Finding a spot can be difficult if you’re at a busy airport, so you may need to valet park the car, which costs even more.

You can also consider park-and-flies, which are offsite parking services. You pay less, and a shuttle transports you to your terminal. They come by every half an hour, so you can stand on the curb at the airport (and the parking lot) and wait for them to make their return trip. This option is generally a lot less expensive than airport parking

Another option in larger cities is public transportation. In Florida, look for the Tri-Rail, which can get you from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami airport with great ease. You have to buy a ticket both ways but it’s a great option for extended stays and could be cheaper than a car service or a taxi.

It is more time consuming because it has more stops, however, so there’s the whole money-versus-time conundrum to figure out. But in terms of total dollars, the only thing cheaper is a friend who’s willing to help you out.

So how do you usually get to the airport? What’s your standard mode of transportation? Do you park and ride, take a cab, or even public transportation? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.

Expedia, Travelocity, Sabre and Consumers All Win in Acquisition

April 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Expedia Squad South Beach, Florida

Expedia Squad South Beach, Florida

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)

4 Tips to Buy Luggage That Lasts

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Tpro Bold 2 Group Photo - Blue

Our new Tpro Bold 2 line.

If you’re traveling for business, you probably want a carry-on size, usually because you’re only going to be in one location for a few days at a time. But if you’re traveling with your family, especially a family with small children, you probably want a large piece of luggage that can accommodate the whole clan to some extent.

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.

Crew 10 Computer Bag

Crew 10 Computer Bag

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.

How Young is too Young to Travel?

March 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Lars Plougmann via Compfight (Creative Commons)

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.

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