How Not to Get Nickel-and-Dimed When Flying Low-Cost Airlines

December 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The sad truth about the budget airlines is that they tend to charge extra for everything. You can get a cheap ticket, sure. But you’ll also have to pay extra for just about everything else. In some cases, you don’t get charged for luggage that fits under the seat in front of you, but you have to pay for luggage that goes into the overhead bins.

Of course, luggage charges are now part of just about every airline’s revenue stream. But a recent article in The New York Post indicates that the three lowest-cost airlines (Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant) have turned luggage upcharging into an art.

The terminal ceiling is suspended in a catenar...

Airport luggage check-in area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When traveling on one of these low-cost airlines, make absolutely sure you don’t have to check a bag at the gate. Doing so can cost you big. For example, Spirit airlines charges under $30 for luggage that’s checked or carried on, but luggage that is checked at the gate comes with a whopping $100 price tag.

Allegiant has a lower starting point for overweight fees since their overages start at 41 pounds, whereas most other airlines start at 51 pounds. Pack light and weigh your luggage before you leave the house, if avoiding these fees is important to you. Carry a luggage scale with you to avoid return trip overages.

Allegiant also may be the only airline that charges a $10 fee to book online. You can avoid the fee by buying a “walk in” ticket at the airport, which seems risky if you’re planning a vacation. You may not get the flight you want, and the TSA will give you a closer look for those “spur of the moment” ticket purchases.

You also need to watch out for fees that are now becoming common in the airline industry at large. Printing out your boarding pass at the airport can be upcharged as can choosing which seat you want to sit in rather than just taking what the airline offers.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be careful and do some research before buying a ticket. If it’s important to you to choose your seat and bring three large bags with you, you may end up paying the same price or more than you would for booking with a more traditional airline. Do your research beforehand, and compare prices before you book your ticket.

How do you avoid airline fees? Any useful tricks you’ve learned over the years? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Some of the Best Luggage Hacks Ever

December 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Everyone loves a list of life hacks, so we were unable to resist a recent article on Australia’s News.com called The 15 Best Luggage Hacks Ever.

There are some great ideas on this list, and we’ve even talked about some of them in the past, but we found a few old favorites as well as a couple new ones.

Everyone should follow rule number one on this list, which is to put some sort of distinctive marker on your luggage so that you can easily pick it out from the crowd when retrieving it from the luggage carousel after your flight. Most suitcases, including ours, are black. We make several others with distinctive colors, but still, the majority of bags you see on a carousel are black. So tie a bright piece of cloth around the handle or put a sticker somewhere easy to see, as a way to distinguish your black bag from everyone else’s black bag.

Maxlite3 Expansion Spinner

Maxlite3 Expansion Spinner

We especially liked tip number 14, Buy a lightweight suitcase. Most airlines charge extra if a packed bag exceeds their weight limit, so you want to start with luggage that doesn’t weigh very much to begin with.

That’s where our line of Maxlite 3 suitcases comes in handy. We designed them to be lightweight and sturdy, so they hold up well to the rigors of travel without adding a lot of weight. We also recommend that you choose your size wisely. If you only need a medium sized bag, don’t lug a large one to the airport; that only adds to your load and the overall price tag.

We did wonder a bit at some of the suggestions in tip number 15 Have a little bag full of these random but useful essentials. The list includes small sheet of bubble wrap, universal bath plug, pencil sharpener, and a calculator. Those don’t strike us as essential items. And since many of the other items listed are very sharp (mini scissors, safety pins, tweezers) make sure you don’t stow this little kit into your carry on as the TSA could possibly confiscate it (or at least the sharp pieces).

Other good tips on the list include suggestions to keep your luggage fresh by sticking a scented dryer sheet in there during down times, using compression bags to save space, and turning light colored clothes inside out so they don’t get marked up if they happen to come in contact with the bottom of your shoes.

What are some valuable luggage hacks you’ve learned over the years? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Hotels Join the Hidden Fee Movement: Previously Free Perks Now Cost $$

December 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Sad to say, some hotels are climbing on board the fee gravy train. Things that used to be included can now sometimes incur charges for unsuspecting travelers.

Of course, everyone is familiar with, and usually wary of, the dreaded minibar fees. People know to avoid the minibar if they’re frugal, and they know they’ll get charged an arm and a leg for a beer or can of coke, if they do decide to indulge.

Fees for wifi have become fairly common, especially at high end hotels. But hotel fees are becoming more varied and sneaky.

English: Hotel / Casino New York-New York in L...

Hotel / Casino New York-New York in Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For instance, one of my colleagues recently stayed at a hotel that noted discreetly at the bottom of a page on its website, “We have taken typical hotel fees, discounted them, and rolled them into a resort amenities fee.”

The additional fee was only $7 per day, but items listed as worthy of the charge included pool chairs and an in-room coffee maker, things most hotel customers don’t expect to pay for.

Other surprising new fees are popping up: they’re charging for luggage storage, charging for receiving packages, and even in room safes. You name it, and there’s a fee for it.

One hotel has even taken the minibar charging to a new level. According to a Yahoo Travel article about hotel fees, a resort casino in Las Vegas has sensors in their fridges that can tell when something is moved. If an item is taken out, it will be charged to the room after 60 seconds. They charge $25 just to use the fridge to chill water you brought yourself.

As with anything else related to travel, do your due diligence. Figure out what fees you’ll need to cover before you make a reservation, and decide whether you’re willing to pay for them. In some cases, the fees are rolled into the cost of the initial booking, so you may need to do a little research if the thought of a hidden charge for having amenities you don’t use doesn’t thrill you.

What’s the most aggravating hidden fee you’ve encountered? Leave a comment here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

10 Interesting and Helpful Travel Websites

December 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever needed help with travel planning, but have some specific needs that the giant travel sites can’t help you with, Nomadic Matt published a very useful blog post in September about some lesser-known travel sites that can be very helpful when planning trips.

One site on the list that we really enjoyed was Tripping, which aggregates information from a variety of apartment rental websites, including FlipKey, Housetrip, and Booking.com. One thing to note about Tripping is that it doesn’t pull information from Airbnb, so you need to do a separate search on that site if you want to compare.

English: Apartment in Pursilahdenranta, Helsinki.

Apartment in Pursilahdenranta, Helsinki. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We like the idea of apartment rental as an alternative to staying in a hotel because it can give you a more authentic travel experience. You get to live the way locals do, rather than tucked away in a hotel. You’re close to the shops, restaurants, bars, and coffee houses the locals use, and you get to experience the city the way they do.

Apartment rental can save you a lot of money, especially if traveling in a large group. It’s often cheaper to rent a house or apartment, plus there is usually a kitchen included so you can cook some of your meals “at home.” And you have more privacy and intimacy with your group.

Trover is another interesting site. It adds photography to short user reviews of restaurants, hotels, and landmarks. It gives a more realistic look at restaurants or hotels you’re considering. Some places Photoshop their photos, or are selective about what they post, to present a better image than the reality, so this lets you see what the place is really like. You can share your photos with fellow travelers, and add a review to the mix to help future visitors make an informed decision.

Finally, we were also impressed with Busbud, a site that offers extensive information about bus services in countries around the world. This can be an invaluable resource for international travelers because in some cases, this information is difficult to find anywhere else.

What about your favorite travel sites? Do you have any unusual or little-known sites you prefer? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Packing for Older Children

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

How and what should you pack for older children? When packing for children, the rule “less is more” is always true. Don’t pack for every contingency, plan for the worst and pack for that.

Once your kids get to be 7 or 8, they should be responsible for packing and carrying their own bags. However be sure to inspect the packing process or do a check after they’re done. If you leave it up to them, you may end up with a suitcase full of Legos or stuffed animals, and the wrong types of clothes for the climate you’re visiting. Have a conversation with your child about what he or she thinks they need. It can be a fun way to teach them to plan ahead.

Children's SuitcaseYou can also leave the carrying of the suitcase up to your child while you’re traveling. Don’t go overboard. Make sure your 7-year-old gets some assistance putting her carry-on in the overhead bin, but make sure she takes responsibility for knowing where it is. Again, you want to make sure she’s taking care of business, but having her keep track of her bag will give her a sense of responsibility.

For the flight itself, you can pack light. Bring some healthy snacks and perhaps one toy or book. And if you have a tablet device — iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire — load a few movies, games, and favorite music to keep them occupied.

At this age, kids love entertaining themselves with video games, so sneak in some learning while you’re at it. Load some educational games and books and puzzles to keep your kid’s mind sharp.

Don’t forget that wi-fi may get spotty from time to time or not be available on your flight, so make sure you’ve downloaded the electronic goodies, rather than relying on streaming services. This way, they can switch between activities during the trip.

What else do you recommend for kids? Any other tips or suggestions? Leave a comment or comment on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Pixababy.com (Creative Commons)

Bring This, Not That: Packing for Young Children

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Many new parents are often tempted to pack almost the entire bedroom when planning to travel with their kids. They want to make sure they’re prepared for every contingency, every situation.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Your kids just don’t need as much stuff as you think they do to survive a flight — you only need the key essentials. There’s often a tendency by new parents to overdo it, because they want to have everything and anything they need.

English: A typical baby's diaper bag, over-sho...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dragging an enormous diaper bag around the airport, in addition to everything else you have, is just going to exhaust you, and you’ll end up not using most of it anyway. Pack what they need: enough diapers, formula or snacks, one change of clothes, and a small blanket. Everything else you need can be checked in your regular baggage.

The other big concern when traveling with small children is keeping them entertained. The very little ones don’t need much at all, maybe a toy and a rattle. Your best hope is that they fall asleep on the flight, so try to arrange your schedule to make that happen.

Toddlers generally need more to keep them occupied, so a tablet can come in handy. If you don’t currently have an iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire, we recommend getting one for traveling with children. You’ll get to enjoy it as well, so it’s a win-win situation.

Load your tablet with your children’s favorite movies, and some new ones, some games and puzzles, and a few of their favorite tunes. With this setup, you could keep your toddler occupied for the entire trip.

If your child has a favorite toy or blanket they’re emotionally attached to, you absolutely must bring it along. Otherwise, the pain of separation will be loud and heart wrenching to you, your child, and everyone seated nearby.

Demanding a Return on Investment From Business Travel

December 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Business trips are a necessary part of doing business around the country or around the world. Trade shows, conferences, and client meetings are all a part of the game. Meeting someone face-to-face can change the dynamics of a key business relationship. The personal touch is still an important part of business, even in a world of e-mails, social media and text messages. But are you actually accomplishing goals with your travels, or are you just “traveling to travel?”

Business class coach.

Business class coach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amanda Stillwagon explains in her article on Small Business Trends the importance of demanding an ROI from business trips. She suggests making a list of must meet people, and then following up with them afterward.

If all you’re doing is traveling because it’s what you’ve always done , it might be wise to rethink your travel strategy into a business strategy. According to Stillwagon, the U.S. Travel Association states every dollar spent on business travel returns $10, if done properly.

You need to have some method of determining the trip’s value, by calculating potential sales or marketing opportunities, and then measuring the actual results. Set up goals before your trip, and measure the results afterward to see if you hit them. For example, if a trade show isn’t generating a positive ROI within a year, drop it and find a better one.

Take these trips as an opportunity to learn more about an industry to expand your network, showcase your products and/or to close a big deal.

Is a trip halfway across the world worth your investment? If there are top industry leaders you could meet, then probably, yes. But if it does not generate a positive ROI to the business, then it is just glorified sightseeing, and definitely not worth the money.

Last-Minute Travel Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

December 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We have discussed the little luxuries of traveling and how the experience can be enhanced by little niceties such as a mint on your pillow or a bottle of water when you check in. Getting an upgrade can be one of them.

Or not.

I have been offered upgrades due to my loyalty status in a frequent traveler program. They have been offered as a courtesy and to keep my continued business. In that sense, it’s worth it, because I’m going to keep using that airline, hotel, or rental car company. But for others, it may not give you the benefits you need.

English: EK J-Class

EK J-Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When checking into the airport or hotel, or renting a car, companies have begun asking at the counter if you want to pay for an upgrade, trying to make it sound like a good deal. For some, the upgrade is totally worth it, while others end up feeling like they suffered from a marketing scheme.

In the past, car rental companies ask if you want an upgrade for $10 a day more, but this is a relatively new concept for hotels and airlines. Airlines have increased their profit margins by this method of marketing alone, selling seat upgrades from Economy to Economy Plus, for example.

Some people have had good experiences with this new airline trend while others have not. According to Christopher Elliott’s article in the Seattle Times, Linda Petzler had a wonderful experience with her upgrade and found it well worth it. As she journeyed from London to Dallas, she made an upgrade to business class for $500 more. On the other hand, Judith Patrizzi made an upgrade on her trip from Rome to Boston, which she later regretted. She received terrible food and bulkhead seats with no more room than the ones she would have received without the “upgrade.”

This is a situation where you have to weigh the pros and cons. Is the room worth it? Or is saving money more important? We suggest always asking if you want an upgrade. Sometimes it may be given to you without a fee. For example, if your hotel has multiple stories, ask if they have any rooms on a higher level available with a great view. These are usually nicer and bigger anyway, and won’t necessarily cost anymore.

Would you pay for an upgrade to a nicer seat, room, or car? Is it worth it, or an unnecessary expense? Leave a comment on our blog post or on our Facebook page.

Atlantic Luggage Introduces the Atlantic Ultra LITE 3 Collection

December 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For families on the go looking for the perfect travel companions, the Atlantic Ultra LITE 3 collection of Spinners meets all their needs with lightweight luggage at affordable prices. Made with water-repellent polyester fabric and high-mileage wheels like the company’s more expensive luggage, this attractive trio of Spinners is built to go the distance.

“The Atlantic Ultra LITE 3 collection is the ultimate in lightweight luggage, allowing you to pack more and avoid overweight baggage fees,” said Scott Applebee, Vice President of Marketing for the Travelpro family of brands which includes Atlantic. “It offers plenty of room to expand, as well as a variety of interior and exterior pockets for packing flexibility.”

American Ultralite 3 CoverAvailable in elegant black, turquoise and purple and three sizes, the Atlantic Ultra LITE 3 collection has innovative features that include 360 degree spinner wheels which roll effortlessly in any direction, retractable aluminum-grade extension handles with two stops at 38″ and 42″, and protective wheel housings, skid guards and molded rubber corner guards for crash protection. The roomy main compartment has tapered expansion of up to 2″, maximizing packing capacity while keeping the center of gravity low to resist tipping. With a 10-year warranty, this collection combines sturdiness with style, definitely a winning combination.

About Atlantic Luggage

Since 1919, the Atlantic brand has been synonymous with affordable, value-added and lightweight luggage. As a market leader in the lightweight luggage segment, including neatly designed uprights and spinners to trendy and smart garment bags and totes, all Atlantic branded luggage is of superior quality and durability. Whether for business or pleasure, travel is easier with Atlantic luggage, now part of the Travelpro family of brands. Please visit Atlantic Luggage at www.atlanticluggage.com for a list of the latest products available for purchase and the nearest retail locations.

About Travelpro

For over 25 years, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travelers worldwide. Since transforming the ease of modern day travel with The Original Rollaboard wheeled luggage, Travelpro has been the brand of choice for flight crews and frequent travelers worldwide. Travelpro is dedicated to building a lifelong relationship with its customers by consistently understanding and exceeding their needs. Travelpro was honored to receive the New Product Innovation Award from the Travel Goods Association (TGA) in March 2013 for the revolutionary Platinum Magna luggage collection.

Please visit the Travelpro website for a full list of the latest products and retail locations. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @Travelprointl.

Why Airline Ticket Prices Vary So Widely

November 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The ticket you bought for your next flight could cost twice as much, or half as much, as the person sitting next to you. It’s a rule of flying that buying a ticket at the last minute means you’ll pay more than someone who bought when prices were at their lowest. If you have to book a ticket because of a family emergency or a last minute trip, you reluctantly pay a premium.

But did you know that ticket prices on an hour long economy flight can vary by as much as $1,400? This rather startling price difference was revealed by Hopper, a travel research website. A recent report they put out states that ticket prices for economy seats between LAX and Vegas — a 60 minute flight — ranged from $200 to $1,600.

DragonAir Economy SeatsThat’s quite a price difference and $1,600 is a lot to pay for such a short flight. The person who paid $1,600 must have been desperate, or quite the high roller.

So how do you avoid being the person who paid the most for their seat?

Part of it is a matter of luck: prices for the same flight vary day to day and even hour to hour. Your best bet on scoring at the lower end of the scale is to buy ahead of time, of course.

You can also check out Hopper’s website, which gives you a good idea of the range of prices for a particular destination and what the best deal is likely to be. If you see something within your acceptable range, be sure to snap it up right away. That price may be gone in 60 minutes.

If you enter the airports you’re flying between, you’ll also get a detailed breakdown of varying flight costs, the best time to buy tickets, and the most popular days to travel to a particular destination. They also provide info on what carriers make the trip, with a percentile breakdown. Plus there’s a list of alternate airports you can travel through to get close to the same spot.

If you want to avoid getting stung by high ticket prices, plan ahead, and use the tools to do some comparison shopping. Whether it’s Hopper or any of the other travel sites online, it’s a matter of good planning and plain luck.

Photo credit: Luke Lai (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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