Nothing like arriving in a new city for the biggest presentation of your career, checking into your hotel ready for a night of restorative sleep and last-minute preparations…and not getting a wink of sleep thanks to the hotel annoyance du jour.
CNN interviewed Doug Peckham, who’s had a long career in hospitality and now oversees Dallas’ Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa, which is located near the headquarters of corporations like Cinemark and Southwest Airlines. The hotel caters to lots of businesspeople, so Peckham is especially sensitive to their needs.
Here are a few rooms he recommended avoiding:
Rooms near an indoor pool: Besides the noise of children splashing and screaming early in the morning, you’ll be treated to the pervasive smell of chlorine under your door at all times.
Rooms near a bank of elevators: Ding! Ding! Ding! In addition to the constant sounds of arriving cars, you’ll get a lot of passing foot traffic, room service, and other annoyances.
Rooms above common areas: Enough said. This goes for the second floor, the second from top floor and any floor directly above (or below) a conference or meeting room area.
Smoking rooms: These aren’t nearly as common anymore, but you could get stuck in a smoking room if you check in late or haven’t been vigilant about requesting a nonsmoking room. It’s just as annoying to find yourself in a recently converted nonsmoking room, because the smell of smoke can get into everything and stay there a long time. Request a new room or ask if the hotel has any HEPA filters to help with the air quality.
Pet-friendly rooms: You’ll be especially sensitive to this if you have any allergies. Pet hair and, sometimes more importantly, dander are often as persistent as cigarette smoke and can be a real problem for guests.
Peckham also recommends asking the hotel questions about your room and your stay before you even get your key made. Find out whether there are any rooms available on a higher floor, where you may get more quiet and a better view. You should also find out whether there are any special rooms designed to offer travelers a better experience, such as “clean-air rooms” to provide better air quality for sensitive guests, fitness rooms and rooms outfitted for business with teleconferencing equipment, secure Internet access and expanded workspace.
And when you book, ask whether there are any major events happening at the hotel during your stay; if there’s something going on, you may not get the best service or experience.
- Business travelers, avoid these rooms (cnn.com)
- Why read the fine print when booking hotels? (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Our best practices for selecting and booking hotels (blondebrunettetravel.com)
- Soundproofing Solutions Help City Hotels Provide Guests a Relaxing and Healthy Stay (katearmada.typepad.com)
If it seems like a lot of articles are written about how to make family travel easier, maybe that’s because it’s generally not
the easiest task. Family trips can be wonderful fun, and an opportunity to bond, but there’s a lot more to think about when you’ve got wee ones in tow.
The New York Times put together a story with seven great pointers to help family travelers get to their destination more smoothly and enjoy their trip more. These are our four favorite (is it any wonder they’re all packing related?)
Don’t pack what you can get there.
Sunscreen, baby formula, juice boxes for snack time and other relatively inexpensive items are available pretty much universally. You can save weight and potential mess by simply buying those few provisions when you arrive at your destination.
Yes, it’s pricey to check bags, but sometimes it’s worth it to have the comforts of home with you no matter what — especially when kids are involved. The Times piece mentions travel cribs and high chairs that fold to impossibly small sizes and can either be stowed on board or checked easily with no excess weight. Of course, many hotels have travel cribs as well.
Don’t pack everything in one checked bag.
It’s a (sadly) well-known fact that bags do occasionally get lost during travel. If you’ve packed one massive suitcase with everything you and your family own, and that gets lost…well, we’ll let those scenarios play out in your head. Pack at least two smaller bags — including one you can carry on — stocked with the essentials, plus any important medications and some items to keep everyone entertained if trouble should arise.
Don’t scrimp on plane tickets.
Splurge on that nonstop flight and checked bags if it’ll spare your sanity and keep you from having to wrangle family members and heavy luggage through three different airports. It’s also getting harder for families to sit together on board, too. Airlines like Southwest let you board early for just a small fee, which may be worth it to get everyone boarded early and in seats near one another.
Granted, not everyone will be able to afford to take all these tips into consideration — one commenter called the story “travel tips for the 1%” — but there’s always something to be learned.
Photo credit: Troy Cawley (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Oprah has access to a lot of travel experts, and we hear she’s spent a bit traveling herself. So it only makes sense that she
and her staff would put together a fantastic list of tips from the folks who know how to do travel right. We read the article and chose some of our favorite tips. Have a look:
Get great deals on a hotel
Oprah’s article actually has two recommendations: The first is to find accommodations in business districts on the weekend because the rates will be much cheaper. You may have to travel a little to get where you want to be, but it could be worth it.
Second, call the local number for the hotel where you want to stay, not the 800 number. The article says those 800 numbers are often clearinghouses that charge more for rooms. And, if you call the local hotel, you can find a room that suits your needs perfectly.
Score cheaper midweek flights
When one airline puts up a sale on their website at the beginning of the week, most other airlines will follow suit by Tuesday or Wednesday — wait until then to shop around and guarantee the best rates for your flight.
Make packing lists of essentials
Create lists of essential items to pack for each type of trip you might take, and leave them in your suitcase for easy access. You can edit the lists every time you travel, adding things you wish you’d thought of and removing things you really didn’t need.
Knock out motion sickness
Oprah’s staff recommends carrying 1,000-mg dried ginger root pills to pop four hours before setting sail on a cruise; it’s supposed to keep you from getting sick on board.
But ginger doesn’t agree with everyone — including one TravelPro staffer — so we prefer the Austin House product Motion-Less. It’s a wristband that’s designed to help control nausea from motion sickness and inner-ear imbalances when you travel.
Eat like a local
If you’re in an English-speaking destination, go straight to the source and ask a local about their favorite spots. If you don’t speak the language, simply avoid restaurants with English menus. And never ask the hotel front desk or concierge for recommendations. The article says restaurants often give incentives for hotel staff to recommend them.
Load up on yogurt
Yogurt is a great way to keep your systems balanced and fend off foreign bacteria as your body adjusts to your new surroundings. It also provides plenty of protein and a bit of fat, which makes it a super-healthy alternative to…pretty much anything else you might find around for tourists to snack on.
- Travel sickness and its simple cures (channelvoyager.com)
- What Jennifer Aniston Should Pack for Her Honeymoon –First-Class… (prweb.com)
- Travel insurance advice (castlecover.co.uk)
- Travel Chic: Hillary Thomas! (stephaniejohnson.com)
- Make the Most of Your Makeup Bag (travelproluggageblog.com)
A new study has emerged confirming what’s easy to assume, given the stress level of the American workforce: we justaren’t taking vacation like we used to. This may not be news to anyone in America who works, but according to a Harris Interactive study commissioned by JetBlue, more than 50 percent of working Americans still had vacation time left at the end of 2011. Most of them had an average of 11 days still remaining in their bank; that’s nearly 70 percent of what they were given.
The reasons aren’t economic, for the most part. We scrimp on actually taking advantage of our vacation time because of work. We work more hours, perform more functions and are generally more in demand at the office. It’s the American way of life these days.
The people interviewed for the CNN article cite factors like too much responsibility in their positions — and worries about the pile of work they’ll return to post-vacation — not enough money to do things when they do go away, the desire to stay productive in their jobs and continued struggles to recover from the recession. Some even mention fear of losing their jobs as reasoning for forgoing vacation.
One man said that given his station in his company, he’s completely unable to take long blocks of vacation, though he does manage to find ways to get away from work and enjoy time with his wife and kids.
Even when we do take vacation, it’s easy to feel tethered to work by constant connectivity through e-mail and other portable technology. The unspoken expectation that we should always be keeping one eye on work is there across the board, even when companies encourage their employees to truly unplug during vacation. The fear of returning back to the office to a pile of work and hundreds — maybe thousands — of unread e-mails after a relaxing break can make a vacation anything but relaxing.
In the United States, companies aren’t required by law to offer their employees paid vacation. In the United Kingdom, employees are legally entitled to at least 28 days’ paid vacation. In countries like France and Greece, the minimum is 25 days; in Germany and Japan, employees receive at least 20 days. That’s entry level, which means long-standing, loyal employees get even more time off. Company culture in these countries also encourages employees to unwind. Europeans sometimes take a month off en masse during the summer, usually July and August. Factories shutter temporarily, offices close.
So, what is the vacation culture like in your office? Do you take advantage of your paid vacation time? Do the JetBlue survey results surprise you?
I recently came across a post on the Travel + Leisure blog by social media editor Joshua Pramis that focused on technological advances that could make our lives as travelers easier than ever.
These aren’t necessarily apps you can just download to your phone; they’re actual tools that can be implemented by everyone to speed things up for us in every way, from baggage check to hotel check-in.
First is an application from Unisys that allows you to print your baggage tags at home, basically eliminating one of the most stressful and time-consuming parts of getting to your gate at the airport. They’re testing the implementation at Billund Airport in Denmark; passengers simply print their baggage tags, then leave their luggage at a special drop-off point at the airport.
The second technology is mobile, but this time it’s starting with the BlackBerry. Developed by SITA, it allows at-a-glance airport information to anyone who touches their phone to a special device at the airport. The blog post mentions updated flight information and access to parking garages, passenger lounges and the boarding area. This one sounds like it has potential, but I’m waiting to see it implemented on a more widespread basis.
The final technology — another huge step for impatient travelers who hate lines — is an online hotel check-in from NCR that allows you to bypass any line at the hotel and go straight to a kiosk and pick up your room key with no delay. (It’s the flipside of the hotel-lobby kiosks that let you print your boarding passes!) This actually is beyond the testing phase and already being implemented at many hotels, including one I stayed at in Vegas.
Vegas is actually the ideal spot for kiosks like this; with so many conferences and large events happening in the city, and so many people checking into the hotels at once, these kiosks really speed things up for the expert travelers who don’t need to fumble for their ID and credit cards at the front desk.
Considering that some airlines are finding new ways every day to make travel more difficult and cumbersome, these little technological advances are a great step in the right direction.
Photo credit: rwozimek (Flickr, Creative Commons)
- 5 Crazy Summer Traveling Fees to Avoid (powerwallet.wordpress.com)
- Two New Ways To Avoid Airport Lines (forbes.com)
You may have budgeted carefully for your next trip, but there’s a good chance you’ll still be surprised by a few of the
unexpected expenses you encounter. A great Budget Travel article, reprinted on CNN’s website, mentioned a bunch of those expenses and explained what they are.
There really isn’t much you can do about these fees except know what they are — knowing is half the battle, after all — and grouse about them to your friends and colleagues. Here’s a look at those seven shockers:
1. Visa Fees
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa. The costs can vary, but places like China and Brazil charge more than $100. Check in with the country’s consulate for costs, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your visa to come in — or you’ll pay extra to expedite it, too.
2. Departure Taxes
International flights, in addition to the other secret fees few know anything about, also include a tax just to leave the country, especially if you’re traveling from the Caribbean and South America. The CNN article says those taxes can go to fund things like airport construction work, road work, and water and sewage system maintenance.
3. Resort Fees
CNN calls these the most hated fees among travelers. Sometimes a flat fee and sometimes a percentage of the room rate, resort fees include things travelers often assume come for free, like towels at the pool or that daily newspaper outside the door. (You know, the one you step over on your way out?)
Some hotels include gym access and wireless internet in their resort fees, which you can’t sweet talk your way out of even if you don’t plan to use the services they cover.
4. Cruise Gratuities
Major cruise lines charge anywhere from $10 to $12 per person, per day, in gratuities alone. If you’re on a 10-day Caribbean cruise and have already been buying drinks and splurging on extras left and right, you’ll be even more stunned when hundreds of dollars in gratuity shows up on your final bill.
CNN notes that though the charges seem mandatory, you can take it up with the ship’s purser in person to adjust the gratuity, up or down, if you think you’ve received better or worse service than the rate indicates.
5. Baggage Fees
Need we say more? Baggage fees are killer, and rarely an actual shock, but it takes our breath away every time all the same. These fees are changing all the time, and usually not for the better — we’re all for carrying our bags onto the plane whenever possible. Failing that, be sure to do your research beforehand to find a carrier with reasonable baggage fees and fares to match.
6. Money Exchange
Especially if you plan on hitting smaller towns with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, it’s always a good idea to visit a major ATM before you leave the city. They usually offer the best exchange rates and less hassle than a foreign exchange, too.
7. Foreign Transaction Fees for Airline Tickets
If you’re booking an international flight on a foreign carrier, you might want to find another flight or consider booking a code-share flight from a domestic partner airline — your credit card company could levy a foreign transaction fee for booking with British Airways, Air France or another foreign-based international carrier.
You can also use a credit card that doesn’t charge those fees, like Capital One. But your safest bet is just to book with an American carrier.
Barry Moltz, a small business speaker, consultant and author, recently contributed to American Express’ OPEN Forum with a primer on packing the perfect carry-on bag. He travels nearly 100,000 miles a year, so it’s safe to say his thoughts on packing can be trusted here. If anyone knows travel, comfort, and convenience, it’s a road warrior like Barry.
We liked Barry’s idea of carrying a hand steamer, but there are plenty of ways around carrying a bulky tool with you, just in case you don’t want to do this. Most hotel rooms come with an iron, and you can always hang your suit in the bathroom while you shower to loosen wrinkles the lazy man’s way.
Another tip: Be sure to hang your clothes up as soon as you’ve checked into your hotel room.
But the suiters that come with many Travelpro® bags can sometimes eliminate the need for irons and steamers entirely — they’re mini garment bags that help keep your suits, shirts and dresses pressed like they’ve just come out of your closet.
This all-in-one lifesaver from Austin House contains five Woolite packets, a sink stopper and a laundry line to hang the laundry dry — if your hotel shower doesn’t already have a retractable one.
This is one of those items you’d never think to pack — but it’s genius!
If you manage to find a coveted power outlet at the airport, you can hook your three-way plug into it and either charge three different pieces of your own electronics or make friends with two other travelers who need to power up their iPhones, too.
Austin House also offers an all-in-one charging kit that charges most USB, Mini USB or Micro USB ports. And it’s great for road trips and all other kinds of travel, with an AC adapter and cigarette-lighter plug.
Perfect for noisy airplanes and general travel-related peace of mind all around, noise-canceling headphones will save your sanity if you travel often. And they don’t take up any room at all in your carry-on!
Austin House’s Digital Stereo Headphones feature an affordable, lightweight earbud design and come with additional buds to fit your ears.
iPads and other tablet computers are particularly suited to carry-on travelers, as they can stay in your bag when they go through a TSA checkpoint conveyer instead of going in a separate bin like laptops.
Travel comfort kit
If you’re on a long trip, it never hurts to pack a bit of comfort to keep you cozy on the way there and back. Austin House’s Travel Comfort Kit includes an eye mask, inflatable pillow and fleece blanket, with a pillow cover that doubles as a storage bag.
- Unique Travel Items to Pack (travelproluggageblog.com)
- 5 Must Have International Air Travel Accessories (epicatravel.com)
- Five Things That Are Always in My Suitcase (landlopers.com)
- 4 Reasons why I’m obsessed with packing light (frugalfirstclasstravel.com)
- Gadgets and Gear I Always Pack (travel.booklocker.com)
- Charge Your USB Gadgets Through the TV in Your Hotel Room When Traveling [Travel] (lifehacker.com)
International baggage fees are going up again on United: Houston’s CultureMap blog reported in mid-June that the airline had increased baggage fees on many international flights by 43 percent.
Though the first bag is still free to check on international flights, the price of a second bag is now nearly half again as much as it was: It’s now $100.
The change took effect on June 1, and it’s the coach passengers who are looking at bearing the brunt of the costs.
But knowing that the first bag gets overseas for free, the uproar over this higher fee gave us reason to wonder when — and whether — travelers would really need two huge bags for an international trip.
If you’re traveling for as long as 10 days, you can avoid this fee by packing everything in one check-in sized bag and one carry-on. If you’re budget conscious but not as efficient when you’re planning what to take on your travels, the $100 fee for the second checked-bag is a strong incentive to learn to pack more efficiently.
When you’re packing clothing, remember that you probably won’t see anyone twice — outside of your family, friends or colleagues, if you’re traveling with a group — and no one is going to single you out for doubling up on a piece of clothing. If they do, ask them how they liked lugging their giant suitcase around.
Pack items that are color coordinated and can be washed and dried easily and quickly. Accessories take up very little space and can change your look a lot from day to day. Limit the pairs of shoes you bring too. Wear your biggest shoes on the plane.
Keep liquids, cosmetics and other toiletries limited to the basics, too — you’d be surprised how much space those things take up! Simplicity is best when you’re traveling. Maybe even consider buying some of these overseas, if you’re going to be gone for a while.
So, when might you actually need that second bag? We can’t think of many instances, actually. If you’re going on a long trip and know you’ll be bringing more items home with you than you came with — and those items won’t fit in a duffel bag or suitcase that you can carry on — that could be cause for a second checked suitcase.
The same goes for if you’re visiting friends or relatives and need to take gifts or other items to them. But you might consider buying an inexpensive suitcase from a second-hand or discount store that you can just leave it at your destination and save on fees during your return leg.
Have you ever traveled internationally with two checked bags? What did you pack? And would you do it again now that the fees are higher? Tell us in the comments when and how you did it, or plan on doing it in the future.
- Airlines Expand Size of Luggage Bins (travelproluggageblog.com)
- Packing Guide for Travellers – Flight Centre NZ (flightcentre.co.nz)
- Make your carry on luggage your backup plan (business.financialpost.com)
- Avoid Damage to Your Luggage by Packing Lighter (and Other Tips from a Baggage Handler) [Travel] (lifehacker.com)
Nothing will take the wind out of your sails after a productive business trip like a few hours spent sifting through the mass of crumpled and unreadable receipts you’ve been stuffing in your wallet for the past few days.
If you’ve ever found yourself shaking your head and muttering, “There has to be a better way,” the article we found on CNN’s Business Traveller coveragemight help you breathe a little easier.
There are plenty of solutions being developed these days to help tracking expenses as simple as possible for business travelers. Many of them involve hardware — scanners and the like — which, if you’re trying to cut down on the amount of stuff you carry when you travel, may not be welcome news — but some are apps and software that help you manage things while on the go.
CNN interviewed Duncan Bell, operations editor of T3 magazine (which specializes in technology), who offered five solutions for business travelers looking to streamline their expense tracking. Here’s a look at them:
- The Planon (pronounced “plan-on”) SlimScan
- The Epson Workforce DS-30 is a portable document scanner about the size of a paper towel roll that could be a bit heavy duty (and pricey) for tracking business expenses on the road, but if you’re in need of a scanner, too, this could be a good pick.
- You may have seen the infomercials for NeatReceipts scanners, a scanner that automatically digitizes the information on your documents and stores it in an online “filing cabinet” — but Bell complained that it frequently misread the information on his receipts.
- Concur is a smart phone app (available for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone) that interfaces with a paid web service that manages both travel and expenses. The app itself, which scans receipts and helps you manage them, is free, but the web-based service starts at $8 per month for small businesses.
- ExpenseMagic is a free iPhone app that photographs, scans and catalogs business travel receipts, but for an additional subscription fee, real bookkeepers will translate the information on your receipts and prepare reports that your accounting department can use.
- Another tool we like is OneReceipt, a free tool that lets you scan your paper receipts and store them in the cloud, automatically pulls in e-receipts and helps organize your spending — it works for personal expenses, too.
How about you? Have you had any experience with tools like these, or do you have another foolproof method for tracking expenses while you’re on the road? Let us know in the comments.
- Make your iPhone a Portable Scanner with these 9 Scanning Apps (techpp.com)
- The Art of Keeping Receipts for Your Taxes (turbotax.intuit.com)
- Paperless chase – how to deal with receipts (ernietheattorney.net)
- Seven Reasons Business Travelers Need An iPhone Expense App (cultofmac.com)
When you’re traveling to a new place, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Especially if you’re traveling for pleasure, those little pleasures of an easy meal, a trinket from your destination or a cab ride back to the hotel can quickly add up. And every dollar counts these days! Molly McCluskey of the Motley Fool has some great tips on avoiding some of the most expensive travel missteps.
Forgetting who your friends are.
There are opportunities for discounts all over the place, provided you know where to find them. Student rates, discounts for those who’ve served in the military and special AARP rates. Public radio and television members often get discounts nationwide on dining and cultural events. Organizations like AAA can be helpful, too, even if you don’t drive a car.
This may require a bit of legwork before you leave, but knowing the perks of organization membership and the benefit of simply being who you are can really pay off in the end.
Not buying in bulk
Tourism passes can be an amazing deal if you know your style of travel includes lots of museums, cultural attractions and just plain getting around. The up-front price might seem staggering, but like another article mentions, if you plan to go to Fenway Park then on a whale watch while you’re in Boston, the GoBoston card will pay for itself.
If you’re going to be taking public transportation around a major city, consider buying a weekend or week-long pass to ride the trains and buses — you’ll be astounded at how much you can save over paying the one-way fare every time.
Eating your budget
This is one the fastest ways to blow all your money without even realizing it. Eating three meals a day at restaurants can be deadly to your budget.
A few recommendations: Buy all your snacks in advance or at a local grocery store — stay as far away from those tourist rip-off kiosks as you can! Find a hotel that includes breakfast in the rate. And make sure your room has a refrigerator if you’re looking to have meals or snacks at the ready without going out — you’ll find your options are limited without a cool place to store provisions.
Being overly accommodating
Cheaping out on hotel rooms when you book, without knowing exactly what you’re getting, can come back to haunt you later. If you need kid-friendly services or business amenities, be sure to ask when you’re making your reservation if everything you need is included. (Hint: Wi-Fi alone can cost you $20 a day in some places, at least!)
And if you’re on a road trip, don’t just take a chance on some highway motel. Hotel chains have loyalty programs that make it easier than ever to get a good rate and the amenities you need. Smart phone apps and 800 numbers make booking from the road a snap, even if you don’t know at breakfast where you’ll be sleeping that night.
The final tip of the article: know what you can afford, and set aside part of your budget for those little incidentals, the unexpected costs that can really trip you up if you aren’t ready for them.
- The 4 Most Expensive Travel Mistakes You Can Make (dailyfinance.com)
- Reader Story: Budgeting for Travel (forbes.com)
- World’s Most Expensive Cities for Travelers (abcnews.go.com)
- Startup Stay Helps Entrepreneurs Ditch Expensive Hotel Stays (smallbiztrends.com)