Four Easy Ways U.S. Hotels Could Help Save the Environment

June 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Many hotels claim they’re interested in saving the planet and they’re demonstrating their commitment by offering to allow travelers to reuse sheets and towels during their multi-day stays.

The lobby of the Bellagio Hotel

The Bellagio Hotel

While this is a small step in the right direction, Yahoo Travel found some other ideas that have been incorporated into hotels around the world that could really make a significant impact in the environment.

Here are a few of our favorites:
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Top Five Technological Advances in Travel

May 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Technology is changing all aspects of our lives, from how we communicate to how we work to how we watch TV. Even our travel is benefitting from new technological advances.

A screenshot of a Google map

You can now download a localized Google Map to your phone for use even when you don’t have wifi or data access.

In fact, technological and engineering advances top the list of coming travel-related improvements. DestinationTips.com recently published 15 new travel advances we can expect to see, and we picked out a few of our favorites.

If you have a smartphone, you’ll be especially jazzed by what you can do with that ever-expanding, multi-tasking device.

Hilton and Marriott are in the process of updating the mechanisms that lock their guest rooms so travelers can unlock the door using their smartphone. By simply downloading an app when you check in, your phone acts as a key, and you have one less thing to keep track of during your visit.
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Don’t Let Negative Thinking Stop You from Traveling

May 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, it’s a lot of work to go on a vacation. You have to plan your itinerary, find the best airfare, decide where to stay, and perhaps who to travel with. But everything in life requires effort, and we don’t want to see you miss out on a great experience because of the following negative myths:

It’s too expensive

In case you were waiting to win the lottery, the reality is everything costs money. There’s no free lunch, but there certainly are a plethora of free and discounted sites and activities to participate in, no matter where you decide to go. (Look at the activities you do at home — museums, sporting events, festivals.)

Backbid.com screnshot

Backbid.com works like Priceline, but in reverse: hotels bid by offering lower and lower prices to win your business.

And there are ways to take vacations that don’t cost much more than your regular living. For example, if you could drive to a new city 1,000 miles away and stay in an Airbnb apartment, you’re looking at the cost of gas and lodging. You can cook your own food, which you would have to do anyway, and you can just walk around and experience a brand new city for an entire week, and try the inexpensive and discounted activities.
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The VERY First Thing to Do When You Get to Your Hotel

April 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I can almost tell how my trip is going to go by how efficiently I can get set up when I arrive at my hotel. Unpacking begins with thoughtful packing, and by that I mean strategic placement of items in my luggage or garment bag. So, the first thing I do when I get to my hotel room is remove the items I’ve folded, usually shirts, to assess how they weathered the trip.

This isn’t rocket science, but it stands to reason that folded items will only become more wrinkled the longer they remain folded. Because I really try to avoid ironing if I can possibly help it, my strategic packing begins with placing my folded shirts in the mesh pocket in the lid of my suitcase. This way, the weight of the other items in my bag is not creating more wrinkles than already exist from folding them in the first place.

Travelpro Crew 10 with suiter

Travelpro Crew 10 with suiter

If I have to take dress clothes, I use one of Travelpro’s cases that has a Suiter in it, like the Crew 10 22″ Exp. Rollaboard. This protects my suit coat and pants from excessive wrinkling and creasing. The Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 and Crew 10 50″ Rolling Garment Bag has a foam rollbar to keep pants from creasing in the middle.

Thanks to the miracle of gravity, most wrinkles will hang out with time. That’s why I make hanging my folded items my next priority. Bringing an especially wrinkled item into the bathroom while I shower also helps those folds relax.
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7 Newest Travel Startups

January 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re more mobile than ever, and not just in our day-to-day lives. Over 1 billion of us traveled internationally last year, and that number is expected to increase by three to four percent this year. There’s lots to manage when you’re on the road, and seven companies have new apps to help you get the most from your experience. We found several new travel start-ups and apps that can ease the burdens of travel and make it a lot more fun.

For those who operate hotels, getting customers to choose your establishment isn’t such a shot in the dark any more. Kaptivating targets potential customers by studying their social media activities and initiates a relationship with them to let them know how a specific hotel could meet their needs.

Lyft car with pink mustacheDo you use Uber and Lyft when you are in a different city? Pistats allows you to analyze all the details of your experiences — frequency, spending, and locations most used — via an integrated map.

Want to get out of Dodge but don’t have a traveling companion? Eo will match your interests, budget, and travel plans with others wanting to go where you’re going. Scroll through profiles, make a connection, and make new friends before you leave town.

Ever wondered where in the world all the best jazz festivals or art festivals are held through the year? Cronomio is a travel calendar that will help you sync your travel with events you don’t want to miss (not just jazz and art).

If you’re a tour operator or travel agency desiring to make and maintain connection with your customers before and after a trip, Keeptrax makes that possible. Keeptrax collates travel information, details of places visited, and photos to help travelers remember all the good things that happened on their trips when they’re making their travelogues for friends.

Moving to Bora Bora and need a nanny? Expat Helpers is an app that explains local labor laws and currency denominations to expedite the process of connecting with and hiring local help.

Get Out is an app that connects those with less run-of-the-mill interests who are looking for out of the ordinary travel experiences with one another. This will help you find that needle-in-a-haystack adventure to do underwater basket weaving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Here are a few other apps that will help you travel safely.

STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and is a free service of the US State Department that makes the US Embassy in the country you’re traveling to aware of your presence there.

SOS is an emergency app that provides you with local numbers for police, fire, and hospital. It has a location finder to help you know where you are in an unfamiliar city.

Medical ID is an emergency app that will allow someone to access health conditions about you even if your phone is locked and you’re unable to communicate.

Finally, Trip It is a password protected app that collates your itinerary, passport, visa, identification information in one place in case those documents are lost or stolen during travel.

Seeing the world is supposed to be fun, not a hassle. These new apps offer you, the savvy traveler, an individualized, unique experience, tailored to needs and desires.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: PraiseLightMedia (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

Travel Hacks You Can Use Anywhere

October 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In our last blog post, we talked about hotel hacks you can use while you’re on the road. With a little ingenuity and a few of the complimentary items most hotels offer, you can have a semi-civilized existence if you need food, a shave, to shine your shoes, or to even remove unwanted odors.

Another travel hacks video from Dave Hax tells us how to pack and travel with just a few simple items to make packing easier and our time on a plane or train more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned.

  • If your shoes get dirty while you’re sightseeing, use the hotel shower cap to cover the soles. If you suffer from SFS (smelly feet syndrome), help yourself (please!) to the teabags in the hotel room and use them as shoe deodorizers.
  • Don’t want to bring your laptop protector but need something to protect your computer inside your suitcase? Fold your hoodie around it and you’re good to go! Your hoodie can also be used as a makeshift pillow. Provided you’re not already using it as your laptop protector.
  • If you’ve never learned how the Marines fold their clothes to make the most use of their duffel space, read our post on making a skivvy roll. It’s genius, and it helps you count pairs of underwear, socks, and t-shirts easily.
  • If you don’t want to watch the in-flight movie, and don’t want a crick in your neck from hunching over your phone, pack a sandwich bag in your carry-on. Place the phone inside the bag and use the tray table clip to hold the bag at viewing level. Then, poke a small hole in the bag for your headphones. If you don’t have a bag, you can fold your sunglasses and use them as a stand.
  • If you have a hard time remembering your room number, take a photo with your phone when you arrive.
  • If your phone battery is running low and you don’t have a lot of time to charge it, put the phone in “flight mode” and it will charge faster.
  • For all you McGyver fans out there, a clean, empty lip balm tube can be used to hide rolled-up bills when you’re going out.

With these tips, your next trip can be cleaner, more efficient, more enjoyable, and adequately charged. What other hacks do you use when you travel? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Hotel Hacks To Use On Your Next Trip

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Nobody wants to bring more than necessary when they travel. It’s especially important issue when going overseas. When considering what to pack and what to leave at home, we found a clever video on hotel hacks filled with examples of how to use items in your hotel room, to save space, weight, and help you get by in a pinch. (You can watch it below.)

Granted, the video and ideas were made in Europe, but most hotels have the same amenities around the world, which means they’ll work almost anywhere.

  • Pack with resealable bags. If you want to keep your clean clothes smelling clean and contain the “aroma” of your other clothes, pack your clothes, or separate outfits, in resealable bags. The video also suggests tossing your smelly jeans into a bag and putting them in the freezer to alleviate the smell. According to Levi CEO Chip Bergh, you should never wash your jeans, so the video’s idea of freezing them in the hotel refrigerator overnight to tame their “aroma” could have some merit.
  • Use body lotion to polish your shoes. The maid service may not be happy with your use of the washcloth as an applicator, but it’s better than leaving one with real shoe polish on it.
  • The television in your room will most likely have a built-in USB port on the side or back. Since it’s challenging sometimes to find a conveniently located electrical outlet for a charger, use the USB port to charge your phone or tablet.
  • The drinking glass neatly arranged by the ice bucket for those mini bar purchases can be used as a speaker for your phone (sans beverage, of course), creating an amplifier for your phone. Never sleep through your alarm again, but be careful not to knock the glass over in your morning stupor.
  • If you don’t take our advice with suggestion #1, then you may have some. . . unpleasantness wafting from your suitcase. Unwrap one of the complimentary hand soaps and drop it in your suitcase. The scent may do something to mask the smell.
  • Did you step in the puddle by the shower and now find yourself with wet socks? Simply stick the hair dryer into the sock, turn it on, and a few minutes later — et, voila. — dry socks.
  • If you order room service and want to save the leftovers, use a new shower cap to cover your plate. The food will eventually spoil, but this will extend the life. Don’t forget, a new shower cap.
  • Some European hotels provide an electric kettle for making tea. If you’re traveling on a budget, you can swing by a convenience store for some supplies, and just eat in your room: use the kettle to boil eggs, and make instant oatmeal, ramen, and rice. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse the appliance. American hotels use a coffee maker, but the water may not get hot enough to boil eggs or rice.

What are some hotel hacks you’ve used in the past? Share them with us and give us a few hints for our next road trip. Leave them in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Amazing Airbnbs That Still Fit Your Budget

September 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airbnb has not only brought some big changes to hotel travel, it has even introduced travelers to some very exotic and wondrous properties.

Yahoo Travel recently discussed Airbnb rentals that are truly amazing places to stay. Although Airbnb is considered a budget travel site, it doesn’t always have to be a place to find hole-in-the-wall accommodations. In fact, there are quite a lot of nice places to stay.

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

And some places are amazing and affordable. Three particular places the article calls out include a glass tree house in the Tuscan forest, a Scottish castle, and a restored windmill in Santorini.

Who wouldn’t want to stay in such a place? And even if you’re not looking to stay in someplace quite so over the top, you can still find really nice spaces right in the heart of expensive cities for quite a bit less than you’d pay for a hotel in the exact same area — and with more amenities, like a kitchen or an actual separate bedroom.

We especially liked the boot house in New Zealand and all of us around the office want to stay at some of these places. They look very enticing.

Airbnb is something of a wonderland. You could create quite a unique getaway just in the properties, staying only in the places with a lot of charm and unique settings. Or you could even try a tiny house and see if you would actually enjoy joining the tiny home living trend. Since it’s a major lifestyle change for most people, diving in through Airbnb might be a good way to try it out.

On the other hand, a castle would be at the other end of the spectrum. You could get a party together to stay and split the cost in order to make staying in such a huge space affordable for everyone. (Or if you wanted to join the less popular living-in-a-giant-Scottish-castle trend, you could check that one out as well.)

The options on Airbnb are almost without limit. If you haven’t checked it out yet, try it out on your next trip and tell us what you think. Or if you’ve already stayed in an Airbnb, let us hear from you. Did you like it? Would you recommend it to friends? Or are you happier in a hotel? Leave us a comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Andy Hawkins (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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)

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.

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