A recent article on the Future Travel Experience website discusses a new initiative at the Brussels Airport: tracking customers via their personal electronic devices in order to create estimates of how long it will take passengers to travel through the airport. They’re hoping this will help reduce queues at the airport: If officials know when to expect passengers at the gate, they can effectively staff for the influx.
According to the article, “the sensors, which are supplied by BLIP Systems, track passengers via their personal electronic devices. They collect the unique Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of phones, tablets and other devices searching for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.”
The sensors will record as passengers pass by them to help predict the length of the passengers’ travel time through the airport. This can also provide accurate times to airport and airline personnel about how quickly travelers will get through security and so on.
But many folks may not have their phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection or their Bluetooth activated, especially when traveling internationally. So this type of tracking may not work for everyone. (Of course, most Europeans traveling through Europe will already have their phones activated, so it will track with intra-continental travelers.)
We think this kind of tracking will continue to be on the rise. In the airport of the future, there may be a way to do this easily, and it will be more common as time goes on. Recording and predicting traffic patterns of travelers is something we think will become more widespread as time goes on.
However, it’s not clear whether this is a voluntary tracking system from the viewpoint of the traveler, although the system will only aggregate non-personally identifiable information. Is this something that travelers should be worried about? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
One thing that we think about fairly often is frequent flier miles and programs. Since the airlines are changing how their programs are working, we’re always looking for new ways to earn and use miles.
A recent article on Vox.com gives us a few more tips on how to use these programs wisely.
The first frequent flier programs was started in 1981 by American Airlines and was such a raging success that it immediately inspired other airlines to follow suit. And of course, these programs remain in place to this day.
(Which also means if one airline does something, it won’t be long before another one joins them. This includes changes to your frequent flier program.)
When you travel, figure out which program best suits your travel habits. Don’t just think about the airline you always fly; look at the one that best suits your needs based on how you travel versus how you spend money.
There are two basic types of rewards systems: mileage-based and spending-based. Mileage-based systems award you for the miles you travel; spending-based programs (i.e. credit cards) award points based on your spending. In many cases, airlines are now basing their awards on spending as well (cost of ticket).
If you frequently travel long distances, a mileage-based system may be your best bet, although the article says those types of programs are becoming a thing of the past.
Also, choose your airline program based on practical considerations, such as living near and flying out of a particular airport’s hub. If you live near Chicago O’Hare, United Airlines is your main airline, so it doesn’t make as much sense to join Delta’s program.
Another challenge is time and cost. When do you need to fly and what flights are available versus the cost of those flights? If you have the time, you can wait for cheaper flights. If you don’t have time, you may spend more money to fly when it fits your schedule, which may affect whether you can fly on your chosen airline.
If this happens frequently, this is where the spending-based program is your better option.
Finally, we also like the tip, “don’t’ sit on your miles, spend them.” Spend them when you get them. There’s no need to hoard miles. Use them for upgrades, or swap them out for merchandise, or even in a points-swapping program, like Points.com.
How do you manage your miles? Let us hear from you. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.
- Alaska Air, JetBlue take top spots in JD Power airline survey (usatoday.com)
- This Chart Compares the Hidden Fees of Major Airline Rewards Programs (twocents.lifehacker.com)
You can’t necessarily get your degree on your next trip but you can spend some time learning while flying, which we think is a great way to multitask. A recent article in Money Magazine showcased two airlines that offer university level coursework to their passengers. You won’t get college credit for signing on, but you might learn something really interesting! Both airlines plan to rotate courses on a regular basis.
Jet Blue is also streaming lectures from some big name universities that are made available through Coursera, a well-known player in field of online and recorded education for large audiences. They’re also offering some cooking classes through another provider. With the rising tide of “foodie-ism” that could be quite popular
We think listening to classes while flying is something that could be of interest to many people. A couple of us at Travelpro are eager to try this out, although some of our colleagues say they want nothing but to be entertained when they’re on a plane.
If you’re not flying on one of these airlines, you can also use iTunes U, which offers a lot of different classes from around the world for free, or sign up for Coursera on your own. These types of classes are definitely gaining in popularity and can be quite interesting.
Do keep in mind that some of the classes may be a bit remedial so it may be best to sign up for classes where you don’t know a lot about the topic.
Do you do online learning? What are some of your favorite courses? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Let us hear from you, and give us a couple ideas for our next trip!
Airline mileage mavens, take note. The days of making mileage runs to boost your frequent flier membership levels may be coming to an end.
A recent article in the Seattle Times says that United and Delta airlines are cracking down on a practice known as “mileage running”.
Basically, this practice entails purchasing a low-cost, long-distance ticket and just flying in order to make sure you stay eligible for elite flying status on an airline. For example, if you’re 15,000 miles short of keeping your Super Elite Titanium level, you might purchase the lowest-cost ticket to fly from Chicago to London to Frankfurt to Rome, and back again, all in a four day whirlwind trip.
It’s not that surprising airlines are cracking down on this. What is surprising is that people are willing to take such drastic steps, such as spending an entire weekend flying to Europe or South America and back just to gain these ticket points. I have to wonder whether it’s all worth the effort and discomfort.
I find that the elite airline mileage programs tend to be problematic anyway. I’ve had trouble booking tickets to the place I want to go and at the time I want them. A lot of blackouts and restrictions apply, not just for the free tickets, but also on what tickets you can use toward getting the free tickets. For me, getting rewards from my credit card has proven to be a lot more worthwhile. I find fewer restrictions in every area of the transaction. There are some credit cards that are specifically geared toward accruing travel points, and I use those whenever possible.
Plus, consider how valuable your time is. Many people don’t have the time to take a long haul trip over a weekend like that. It may be worthwhile to spring for a business class ticket once in a while rather than spending 36 hours traveling just to get upgraded. You have to calculate whether the benefit is greater than the cost, both concrete and abstract.
It’s lost to the annals of history, but up until 1978, there was a code that said if an airplane was delayed, the airline had to book you on a competitor’s flight. Unfortunately this code, Code 240, was dismissed in 1978 when the Civil Aeronautics Board was eliminated. However, three airlines still uphold this level of courtesy.
According to a recent USA Today article, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines will still fly you on a competitor, in the spirit of Code 240.
Granted they do have some stipulations, such as if the delay was weather-related or an act of God, then they won’t. But that’s still better than nothing. Even in the 1990s, many airlines would honor the Code. But after September 11th, security became stricter, and fewer airlines honored it.
If you’re ever caught in a flight delay, you can still ask for Code 240 to see if the airline will grant it. After all, the worst they can do is say no. However, there is an alternative.
Some airlines have ongoing working relationships called a codeshare, where they work together and will sell tickets on each other’s behalf, and even fly their passengers. For example, the SkyTeam codeshare has 20 airlines, including Delta, Alitalia, and Air France. Star Alliance networks 27 airlines including United, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.
So if you booked a Delta flight to Rome, and have a Delta ticket, you may end up on an Alitalia flight because of the codeshare. If you want to fly Lufthansa to Germany, you may be on a United flight, and so on. This codeshare, in a way, works like Code 240. If your Delta flight to Paris is delayed, you may be able to get a codeshare seat on an Air France flight a couple hours later.
You can also use these alliances to get cheaper tickets. If you want to fly overseas, check the different ticket prices on each airline’s website. You may be able to get a cheaper ticket on one than the other, even though you’d be on the exact same plane.
Furthermore, if you’re a member of a frequent flyer program with one airline, but you fly with a codeshare airline, you’ll still get your miles.
If you ever find yourself stranded because of a delay, ask the airline about their codeshare alliances and see if any of them are available to get you to your destination faster. At the worst, you’re going to be late anyway. But if you’re lucky, you can get there sooner than everyone else waiting for the next regular flight, and you can do it without any extra fees.
Purchasing liquor in-flight can be costly, which has led many people to wonder if they’re allowed to bring their own bottles of liquor on board. We’ve seen many blog posts on this topic, and unfortunately, with the rules on this being a bit confusing, many travelers are being misinformed.
Since there’s so much misinformation floating around, we decided to do some digging on this topic and set the record straight.
So can you bring liquor on board a flight? The answer is yes. . . and no. (Mostly no.)
Full size bottles of liquor
Per the 3.4 ounce rule, full-size bottles of liquor are not allowed to be packed in a carry-on – you must pack these in your checked luggage. The exception to this rule are bottles of liquor purchased at the airport duty free shops past the security gates. But if you have to bring it through the security checkpoint, you won’t be allowed to keep it.
Mini bottles of liquor
Travelers are allowed to pack miniature bottles of liquor in their carry-on luggage, as long as the bottles are 3.4 ounces or smaller and are placed in a clear plastic bag for inspection. Note that in compliance with the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, you’ll need to include these bottles into your quart-size bag. Visit the TSA website for more information.
Can you drink your own liquor in-flight?
While you may be able to bring your own liquor on-board with you, if you’re flying within the United States, you won’t be able to drink it. The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules state “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.”
While you may think that it might be easy to sneak a drink, think again. Unless you’re OK with paying thousands of dollars in civil penalties for breaking the FAA’s rules, you’ll want to bite the bullet, spend a few extra dollars for a drink from the in-flight beverage cart and save your personal stash for your hotel room.
The words “delay” and “layover” are apt to cause even the most seasoned air traveler to feel just a bit stressed out. Thankfully, airports are starting to recognize that they’re in the business of customer service and that nowadays, savvy travelers are apt to select layover airports based on amenities and comfort.
If you happen to find yourself stuck in an airport on a layover or flight delay, don’t spend your time stressing – instead, why not enjoy yourself? Here are eight of our favorite ways to not just survive, but actually enjoy a layover.
1. Do some shopping
Whether you’re interested in picking up gifts, shopping duty free or checking out designer wares, many airports are now increasing their retail options, making them an excellent place to get some shopping done! Even better? Denver, Los Angeles and Vancouver airports are all planning outlet malls next to their airport terminals.
2. Airline lounges
Think you can’t gain access to an airline lounge simply because you’re flying coach? Think again! Many lounges now allow travelers to pay per visit, making them a great place to kick back and relax.
It may seem like an oxymoron, but many airports are actually great places to squeeze in some relaxation. Listen to music, read a book, or take advantage of the free WIFI many airports now offer and watch a movie online.
4. Pamper yourself
Having a hard time relaxing on your own? Pamper yourself! Many airports now offer barber shops, salons, spas and massage kiosks.
5. Catch up with friends and family
In this fast-paced world we live in, it can be hard to find the time to catch up with friends and family. Why not take advantage of the down time and do some catching up? If your cell phone battery is low, fear not – most airports are now offer charging stations.
6. Meet other travelers
Airports, bars and restaurants can be a great place to meet people of all walks of life! Who knows – you may end up meeting a future client or love interest!
7. Squeeze in a doctor’s visit
Yes, it’s true! Many airports now offer clinics that conduct routine physicals and inoculations. If you haven’t been to the doctor lately, there’s no time like the present.
8. Go sightseeing
If you’re stuck on a long delay, venture out of the airport and do some sightseeing! Most, if not all airports have kiosks that provide tourism information. If you do venture out, just be sure you’re back in time to get through security.
Photo credit: PeterGarnhum (Flickr, Creative Commons)
I recently spotted an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a Department of Homeland Security request to technology companies for a light, handheld device that will be able to quickly determine whether an object on a passenger being screened is a weapon or explosive of some sort.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and all the screening that get travelers through the checkpoints before their flights. The TSA has about 700 full-body “backscatter” machines at 180 airports throughout the United States, but as of right now, backscatter machines do only part of the screening work. They can detect objects hidden on passengers during that full-body scan, but if the machines find something, TSA agents still have to do manual pat downs to determine what the object is.
I’ve been through a few manual pat downs — you can be randomly selected for them, too — and as a seasoned traveler, I’ve gotten used to the process. But some people are very sensitive to pat downs and feel violated when a TSA employee asks permission to do so.
There are many upsides to creating an electronic device that will do the work of a person who might do the pat down. The risk of offending travelers will be greatly reduced, and it will make TSA agents’ jobs easier, too.
Also, in general, if a company develops a great handheld digital product to detect weapons and explosives, the amount of human error in the search and detection process will be reduced, too, making the skies safer for everyone who travels.
It’s a win-win for everybody.
A solution like this takes time — companies will have to submit their proposals, and there’s no telling how long development, testing and approval will take both at the corporate and government levels — but moving to an electronic device that will digitize the entire screening process, from the backscatter machine’s full-body scan to determining whether the objects found pose a threat to other travelers, is a step in the right direction for travelers and the efficiency of the entire process.
I can’t wait to hear updates on this process as it moves forward.
- US Boosts Overseas Airport Security (newser.com)
- U.S. seeks device to replace pat-downs (newsday.com)
- House To TSA Officials: Stop Patting Down Beyonce (inquisitr.com)
- TSA working on way to reduce pat-downs (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- TSA Seeks New Devices To Cut Back On Pat-Downs – Really? (aviationqueen.wordpress.com)
The TSA is not known for its Christmas spirit, which can make everyone else a real Scrooge when it comes to holiday travel plans. It’s to be expected: there are certain travel rules everyone has to follow, and safety doesn’t take a holiday.
So if you want to avoid having your holiday gift giving ruined by some overzealous agents who think your fruitcake constitutes a security issue, try remembering these holiday travel rules:
1. No Snow Globes Allowed
In an article on Condé Nast’s Daily Traveler, writer Molly Fergusreminds us that your liquid limit is 3.5 ounces, which is less than the volume of most snow globes. Which means you’re not going to be allowed to take your snow globe gifts along with you. Your best bet is to pack it securely and safely, and ship it ahead to your final destination.
2. Ship your gifts ahead of time.
Just because a gift is nicely wrapped doesn’t mean the TSA won’t tear into it to make sure it’s safe. If you have to carry a gift with you, leave it unwrapped and wrap it when you get to your final destination. Pack some wrapping paper inside the box (pre-cut, of course, since you can’t take scissors on the flight), and wrap it. Or just buy the wrapping paper or a gift bag once you arrive.
Or, just like everything else we’ve discussed so far, ship it ahead of time. It may seem like an added expense and headache, but if you can save yourself the stress of trying to get everything through security, you may find it was worth the money. Also, compare the cost of shipping ahead to the checked bag fees that most airlines charge. You may be surprised on how small the cost differential actually is.
3. Save room in your luggage for the return trip.
If you didn’t have a full suitcase heading out, you will when you’re coming back. Be sure to leave some empty space in your suitcase to pack the gifts you’ll be bringing back with you. This is especially true if you’re worried about having an overweight suitcase. Only pack the bare necessities, because you don’t want to get hit with overweight baggage fees coming back. And ship back any gifts that you can’t take through security.
Holiday travel is stressful enough. There’s no need to add to the hassle, especially as you’re trying to get through security. Leave stuff at home or ship it ahead, but avoid packing the things that are going to make the TSA confiscate them. You’ll have a merrier time if you don’t have to worry about it.
- As Thanksgiving travel looms, complaints against TSA drop, study finds (nj.com)
- The TSA Announced They Might Unwrap Your Christmas Presents (thenewx1023.radio.com)
- Hassle Free Holiday Travel (allinclusiveguide.wordpress.com)
- TSA Tips for Safe Holiday Travel (abcnews.go.com)
- That’s a Wrap: Some Alternatives to Traditional Gift-Wrapping (getrichslowly.org)
One of the great joys of being a grandparent is watching your grandchildren experience new things. And, there’s no better way to share in these experiences than by taking trips together.
Traveling to exciting new places with your grandkids enables you to broaden their horizons, enhance their education and deepen your bond with them. Plus, your adult son or daughter will appreciate both your relationship building efforts and the “time off” from parenting.
But, remember that these trips aren’t for the faint of heart. You’re not only assuming responsibility for the children’s well being during your travels, but you’ll need to match their energy levels as well.
To minimize stress, it’s important to think through beforehand what everyone in your party will need during the flight. By anticipating the challenges of navigating your grandkids through a busy airport terminal and frantic security checkpoint and onto a crowded plane, you can plan and pack accordingly.
Here are some tips that every inter-generational traveler should consider:
Create A Handy “Trip Case”: While shepherding young children through the airport, you shouldn’t have to hunt through multiple bags to locate airline confirmations, boarding passes or rental car reservations. Simply tuck a “trip case” containing all travel documents into your Travelpro Rollaboard’s ticket pocket, and relax. Everything you need in now in one place for quick and easy access.
Be Prepared: You’re the children’s guardian during the trip, so make sure you have their proper identification, health insurance, contact information and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention. Plus, it’s your job to know all their medications and dietary needs.
Let Your Grandkids Carry-On: Have your grandchildren pack a backpack that they’re responsible for. By involving them in the planning process, they’ll be less intimidated (and more agreeable) at the airport. You should limit the number and size of items they take, and encourage them to make a list of their belongings which they’ll keep in their backpack.
Pack A Surprise Bag: Bring along a “surprise bag” containing books, games, dolls and other visually stimulating toys that you can pull out when they get restless. Engaging your grandkids will not only make the trip more pleasant for you, but for surrounding passengers, as well
Load Up On “Apps”: Instead of weighing down your Travelpro® Rollaboard® with a bunch of books, why not load some stories and games onto your iPhone or iPad? There’s a wide array of whimsical and delightfully illustrated online books available for kids.
Finally, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you have many grandchildren, consider traveling with no more than two at a time. You’ll not only be able to provide each the attention they deserve, but you have a ready-made excuse for future trips with the ones left behind.