How to Keep Your Home Safe while Traveling

October 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

There’s a great deal of emphasis these days being placed on personal security while traveling. But have you thought about ways you might be “leaving the door unlocked” for thieves while you’re away from home? By instituting a few simple routines, you can keep your house secure while you’re traveling for business or leisure.

This first one may seem a bit obvious, but in our oversharing culture it’s worth noting: Do not post on social media when you’re going out of town. Disable the “check in to favorites” and “check in to recent places” on your Swarm/Foursquare app or Facebook, so those apps do not automatically display that you’re in another state.
Keep your house safe while you're traveling
Also, avoid posting vacation pictures until you return from your trip so those who search the Internet for this kind of information can’t easily target your home. One good use of technology: a simple text sent to neighbors you trust, telling them you’re leaving town and asking them to keep an eye on your place, may raise someone’s suspicion if they see unusual activity around your home.

Home automation is another technology method, but we’re long past the days of the automatic timers that shut off all the lights at exactly the same time every day. A free web service called IFTTT (which used to be If This, Then That) allows you to use its partnerships with various manufacturers’ products to control your house’s lighting, heating and cooling, and alarm system remotely.
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GM and Lyft Working to Make Self-Driving Cars a Reality

June 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The transportation you use once you arrive at your destination, whether traveling from the airport to your hotel or from the commuter train to your business meeting, can be a big part of your overall travel experience.

A Lyft vehicle in Santa Monica, CABesides impacting your overall feeling about the trip, it can be expensive, depending on what you use. While limos or taxis used to be the predominant method, the popularity of Uber and its competitor Lyft have changed the conversation about what mode of transport is not only most pleasant and efficient, but most cost effective.

To that end, GM and Lyft are betting that utilizing driverless cars will create an even less expensive option for users. Conde Nast Traveler reports the two companies have combined forces, and GM has purchased driverless tech company Cruise Automation, with an eye on capturing that emerging market.
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Delta Invests $50 Million in RFID Baggage Tracking Technology

June 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s not hard to imagine, and it’s every weary traveler’s worst case scenario. Perhaps this has happened to you. You arrive home from your trip only to find your luggage didn’t make the trip with you. You rummage around and find those little baggage claim stickers from the depths of your carry-on to show an airline customer service representative, but other than that you have no way of knowing where your bags are. It’s an awful beginning or end to any trip.

Delta Baggage Tracking on mobile app

Delta Baggage Tracking on mobile app

Currently, there are many bag tracking devices and accompanying apps on the market, but those put the onus on the traveler to make the airline aware that, for example, they’re on a flight to Omaha while their luggage is on its way to London.

Delta is turning this model around, as they have recently announced a $50 million update to their baggage tracking technology system. New RFID scanners, RFID bag tag printer, and RFID pier and claim readers have been installed in 344 stations worldwide. Delta’s investment is the largest outlay by a single airline to date, and has resulted in baggage tracking that is 99.9 percent accurate.

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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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Technology I’d Like To See: Automation To Solve Travel Woes

April 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s a Technology I’d Like To See (TILTS) thought:

Having to make a tight connection is a source of anxiety for many travelers. When our originating flight is delayed, we’ll spend the entire flight rehearsing scenarios, wondering if our connecting flight was also delayed or what gate we’ll have to sprint to. Many of us teeter back and forth between hope and despair, working our stomach into knots.

Trip Advisor mobile appWith the increased automation available within the travel industry, it’s surprising some kind of app hasn’t been invented on behalf of some airline in order to facilitate a better experience for travelers.

For example, a simple email from my airline, informing me of the gate for my connecting flight or letting me know that the flight I’m so desperate to make has also been delayed would alleviate much of my angst and keep me from pressing my call button to pester the flight attendant for information that he or she can’t seem to procure either.
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New Technology to Reduce Hotel Noise

February 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever been in a hotel trying to sleep and the wedding party — or fraternity formal, high school band, college football team, or rampaging horde of invading Mongols — returns from its festivities, you know how frustrating it can be to have your peaceful night interrupted.

Now imagine if the hotel could monitor the decibel levels in its rooms and environments and handle the partiers without you having to call down to the front desk?

Quietyme does just that. Founded in 2012 and currently deployed at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as throughout the HotelRed chain, Quietyme installs sensors in rooms for $3/month subscription and samples the noise level in those rooms once per second.

The Phoenix HotelIt streams the results to the front desk so that management can proactively respond. Through independent studies, Quietyme found that its technology reduced hotel noise levels by 65 percent at properties where it was deployed. It also helped reduce property damage.

According to the JD Power’s 2015 North America Hotel Satisfaction Survey, hotel noise is the second largest problem guests report to management after Internet connectivity. According to Huey Zoroufy, chief technology officer for Quietyme, instead of reporting the problem, customers are going online and leaving poor reviews about their stays. Quietyme gives hotels an opportunity to anticipate their clients’ needs, and solve problems before they become problems.

That anticipation translates into a higher score for the hotel, according to the same JD Power study. Hotels scored 310 points higher out of 1,000 if they strongly agreed that the staff anticipated their needs rather than responded to them.

Don’t be surprised if you see this type of technology spread to more hotel chains in the coming year. It might make you think twice about what kind of “in-room activities” you choose to participate in, or not participate in, while on vacation.

What do you do when you have noisy hotel neighbors or other hotel noise? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Ben Chun (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

Tiny Travel Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed

January 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever seen some cool gadget and wondered, “Where has this been all my life?” or how your life was ever complete without it? While those may be few and far between, we’re always on the lookout for the next great gadget to make our life easier. Here’s a list of some very helpful gadgets we found, for use while traveling or at home:

VoltReady. This credit card sized dual charger has built-in Apple Lightning and micro usb cords and you can use them at the same time to charge two devices. We’ve heard reports of phones below ten percent being fully charged within an hour with this!

Chamberlain Jump Starter. This little two-pound gadget eliminates the need to find someone with jumper cables and a car to jump your car (or rental’s) dead battery. It can jump-start a vehicle up to 20 times before requiring a charge itself.

Waka Waka Power SupplyWaka Waka Power+. This solar charger stores the sun’s rays for that time when you need to charge your phone or just need light in the dark. The unit can charge a phone or provide 150 hours of light in its flashlight setting, and with each purchase the company donates a solar light to someone without electricity.

Kenu Stance. We all take pictures with our phones these days, but sometimes it really would be handy to be have a tripod available to steady the shots or videos. This tripod mounts to the phone’s charging point and folds down smaller than a pack of gum.

Victorinox Jetsetter 3-pocket Knife. The pocket knife guru has created a TSA-friendly, bladeless pocket “knife” includes tweezers, a screwdriver tip, toothpick, scissors, key ring, bottle opener, and wire stripper. Some reviewers have said it has almost been confiscated, though, so buyer beware.

Shavetech USB Rechargeable Travel Razor. Electric razors are convenient, but bulky and require their own charging cord to be useful. Not so with this razor. The built-in USB connector cuts the cord and is smaller than your phone. No word on how close a shave it gives.

Ivation Super Portable Bluetooth Speaker. We’re a bit skeptical about how good the sound quality could be from such a small speaker, but you can afford to give it the space to find out, since it’s only as wide as a quarter and the built-in USB connector results in four to six hours of augmented listening.

BlueDriver. Now this tool could get you on your way faster if your car breaks down while you’re in route to your destination. The tool works in conjunction with your phone to allow you to diagnose problems with your vehicle.

Do you have any devices you never leave home without? Do you have any experience with these gadgets? We’d love to hear about them. Leave us a comment below oron our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Alper Çuğun (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Shorter Waits, Better Rides Coming to Amusement Parks?

September 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We recently read an article on Yahoo Travel that will make our kids jump up and down with excitement: the future of amusement parks is all about shorter lines, better rides, better food, and more interaction.

According to the article, the future of amusement parks looks like it’s going to be quite different from what we experience today and especially different from the past.

Dunas Park 2

Dunas Park 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. The use of smartphones and other personal devices will begin to reduce line length. Instead of having to wait in line for 2 hours, you can check in with your device and be called over to your spot when the ride is almost ready for you. Kind of like the flashing buzzer at a restaurant. If you’ve already experienced Disney’s FastPass, you’re familiar with the idea.

2. Expect more interaction in the parks. Amusement parks are expected to become “full on participatory adventures” in the near future. The article is a bit cagey about what that means, but we suspect there will be more of a role playing game aspect to park attendance. Think Renaissance Faire, only cooler.

3. Darker themes to parks will be more common. To appeal more to adults (especially the largest demographic, Generation Y), parks will start to seem a bit more like a darker type of video game rather than focusing solely on child-friendly/child-only themes. Things will be scarier.

4. Parks are going to be greener. Amusement parks use up a lot of energy and they’re going to have to start finding ways to minimize their impact from increasing recycling initiatives to reducing energy usage. Expect to see more of this in amusement parks across the board.

5. The food is going to be better. With the continued “foodiezation” of America, it’s no surprise that amusement parks are expected to get on board with this ongoing trend. (Again, look at Generation Y’s trends with food.) Food already costs an arm and a leg within parks, so increasing the quality is a great way for parks to increase the amount of money they can charge their captive audience in order to eat. Plus, it’s another way to increase appeal to adults.

What else would you like to see in your favorite amusement parks? Leave your ideas in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Airlines Are Unlocking New Value In Their Frequent Flier Programs

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Reversing the direction of what we’ve seen recently in frequent flyer programs, Business Insider says that airlines are now finding value in their frequent flyer programs.

The recent trend has been for airlines to find ways to deny privileges to customers involved in frequent flyer programs (such as putting a stop to mileage runs). That trend probably isn’t going to change, but airlines are finding ways to monetize these programs in a way that, so far, doesn’t seem to be of much benefit to travelers themselves.

Multiple racks of servers

If you’re using Big Data, you need some Big Servers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting on board the Big Data bandwagon, airlines have started harvesting and selling the data they’ve gathered about their frequent flyers. They’re selling this data to a variety of sources; Business Insider lists credit card providers, rental car companies, and hotels.

This data is so valuable, Air Berlin recently sold a stake in its frequent flyer program for more than what the entire Air Berlin corporation was valued at.

“It’s extremely powerful data, especially as it tends to be slanted towards the premium segment,” said Marc Allsop, senior vice president and head of global business development at Aimia.

In other words, frequent flyers tend to be very desirable customers. Anyone who travels enough to rack up that many miles tends to have money to spare, even when the person’s travel is on the company’s dime.

Plus, the information being harvested isn’t just related to facts about the person. It can potentially include details about recent trips a particular person has taken.

How do you feel about your frequent flyer information being harvested and sold to a third party? Leave us a comment to let us know if that sounds just fine to you or if you’d prefer to go back to the days when your data was just between you and your airline.

Use Your Smartphone As Your Hotel Key

February 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

For weary travelers, even the tiniest road block can seem exhausting and annoying. In an attempt to smooth things out for their guests, Starwood Hotels and Resorts now gives guests the option of skipping check-in and using their smartphones as their hotel keys. Hilton is also planning on rolling out a similar scheme later this year.

The phone as room key may be a bit more complicated than it sounds though. Starwood has only rolled out the feature in one hotel so far, with plans to include it in more hotels later this year. There’s a lot of technological behind-the-scenes work that goes into making this work, such as replacing the current locks with new ones, and making sure the steps are in place so guests don’t accidentally unlock their doors.

English: Windows Phone 7 powered LG Panther(GW...

Windows Phone 7 powered LG Panther(GW910), Prototype smartphone for developers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plus, this only works with one phone per room, so if more than one guest is staying in the room, one of them gets to use their phone, the other(s) will use a normal room key.

In this case, hotels see many reasons to go the extra mile to make checking in easier. They’re hoping that getting guests comfortable with using their phones for hotel-related activities will ease the guests into using other hotel apps. Future wish-list items include allowing guests to order drinks while sitting poolside, book spa packages, and order expensive room service, all with a mobile app.

Of course, a lot of hotels have begun to roll out the ability to check in via your phone. You can get all the red tape out of the way while you’re in the cab, and then just pick up your old fashioned hotel key on your way to your room.

What are some things you would like to be able to do at a hotel with your smartphone? Leave a comment below and let us hear from you.

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