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.

Google Enters Travel Booking World

October 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve been thinking about going to Montreal or New Hampshire in a few weeks to see the fall colors. When you start your search process, you notice that Google is offering to not only help you book your flight, but your hotel as well.

The ubiquitous tech giant is now dipping its proverbial big toe even deeper into the travel booking pool with its new initiative, “Book on Google”. And it has some of the other booking websites a little nervous.

Montreal, First YMCA. Now Hotel Gault.

Montreal’s Hotel Gault. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google is currently conducting a beta launch in North America with 20,000 hotels that allows travelers to remain in its own navigation system from initial search to completed booking. Google’s partner? Sabre, the biggest global distribution system in the world used by more than 350,000 travel agents to access accommodation information.

The new “Book on Google” is the next generation of Google Hotel Ads, a search engine that searches other search engines and compiles the results for available hotels. What “Book on Google” provides that Google Hotel Ads doesn’t is direct booking all the way through to payment on mobile devices from Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ platforms.

The hotels share the commission with Google and Sabre. This program complements Google Flight, which resulted from the purchase of ITA software, a flight information company, in 2015.

So now you can book a flight and find a place to lay your head without ever leaving Google. What’s next? Google room service, please.

Would you book with Google, or have you already done so? Let us know what you think in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

4 Tips to Never Losing Your Luggage Again

August 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article in U.S. News travel notes that lost airline luggage has become something of a rarity. You have a less than 1 percent chance of losing your luggage. However, it’s still worth your while to make efforts to keep yourself out of that 1 percent. Here’s how.

Give the airline plenty of time to deal with your baggage by arriving early to your flight and not booking yourself into connecting flights that have extremely tight windows. If you have to rush to go from one flight to the next, so does your luggage, and the baggage handlers may not be as fast as you. (Plus, you can save yourself the headache and anxiety of racing to make that next flight.)

A baggage handler unloading bags from the moto...

A baggage handler unloading bags from the motorized ramp underneath an recently-landed airplane in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make sure your bag is clearly identifiable. You can do this as easily as tying a colorful sock or ribbon to your handle. Next, avoid putting anything of high value into it. Placing a Monet painting into your checked luggage is a great way to ensure someone steals it en route. If you need high-value items at your destination, or want to take them home, have them shipped via courier and get the replacement insurance.

You can also add a tracking device to your luggage. These days, such devices are easy to come by and using one is a great way to better ensure you’ll be reunited with your bag after your plane lands. The devices use GPS tracking and your smartphone to make sure you find your luggage, so at the very least you can tell the airline representative where your bag is.

And finally, know your rights when it comes to lost luggage. There are a lot of rules around lost luggage and many of them benefit the airlines (for instance, there is a list of items that they will not replace, including that Monet painting). Know them before you ever leave the house, so you know what you can and can’t take, should and shouldn’t have, and what you can do to protect yourself if you ever become one of the 1 percent.

How do you keep track of your luggage when you fly? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: Poncho Versus Umbrella

August 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Should you bring a poncho or an umbrella when traveling? Are there situations where you would take one and not the other?

One of our co-workers always takes an umbrella when he travels, particularly on a business trip. He just feels that an umbrella is a better choice. The umbrella is easier to deal with. It just seems like a better choice because it’s there when you need it and you don’t have to put it on or deal with folding it back up after using it.

English: The SENZ umbrella, develloped at the ...

The SENZ umbrella, developed at the Delft University of Technology, withstanding stormy winds. Picture taken at the Kunsthal exhibition on Dutch Design (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re planning on attending any sporting events on your trip, you should take a poncho as stadiums tend to discourage umbrellas. Or if you’re going on an outdoor expedition, a poncho might be more realistic because it provides more coverage and you’re more mobile; an umbrella can tend to limit mobility a bit, and doesn’t cover you adequately if there are high winds.

Ultimately, it just depends on your situation and what you’re doing. In terms of everyday life, I would prefer an umbrella.

One exception might be when you’re traveling to a place where space is limited, and you can’t just pop out an umbrella. One of those small pack away ponchos can come in handy, because you’re still covered, even in close quarters.

On the other hand, you can take a small umbrella and pack it into one of the pockets in your luggage or backpack so it’s there if you need it. A very small compact umbrella is the one you want to go with when you’re traveling. Just don’t count on it in a heavy storm.

Figure out the situation before you go, of course, but we ultimately recommend an umbrella if you’re going somewhere on business and a poncho if you’re expecting to be more active during your vacation. And either one can work as a small pack away as long as you go with the smaller versions suitable for that situation.

How do you keep dry when the rains come? Got any helpful hints or ideas? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

15 Useful Travel Websites for People Who Love Traveling

August 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love to travel, and can’t get enough of the different travel websites that keep popping up, we’ve got a few new ones for you to check out.

A recent Lifehack article shows us 15 sites that are helpful for travelers. We’ve covered several of them in the past, but there’s always something new in the world of travel websites. And we found a few new ones we’d never heard of.

Of course you’ll find some of the expected travel websites, such as Yelp. But throw in some new ones we weren’t as familiar with, such as Skiplagged and Responsible Travel, and you catch our interest. They give tips on going places we might never have thought about.

Seat61.com, a website dedicated to train travel.

Seat61.com, a website dedicated to train travel.

One of the sites, The Man in Seat 61, is all about train travel, which is something we don’t discuss that much here. But after reading it, we may have to give it some more consideration.

The article gives us info on some niche and unexpected travel websites that most people don’t know about. We tend to use the run-of-the-mill sites ourselves and were pleased to learn more about these new sites.

Trip Tribe is a site that will allow you to enter information about yourself and then gives you tips on some activities you might enjoy.

Home Exchange allows users to trade housing with people in locales they want to visit. It’s like a barter version of AirBNB, where users can simply set up a home exchange, as the name implies, and trade houses with fellow travelers for a few days or weeks.

Another interesting site was AirHelp, which is a great resource for folks who have had unpleasant events while traveling via airplane. For those with lost luggage or extensive delays, Air Help is a great resource in letting you know what your rights are.

What are some of your favorite travel sites? Do you have any you recommend, or any new favorites? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Bring This, Not That: Huggies Wipes Versus Purse Tissues or TP

July 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

How do we put this delicately? There are times when you need. . . personal hygiene items. Maybe you have babies and toddlers who need to be cleaned up during a diaper change. Or maybe you’re going to be out in the wilderness for several days. Or you’re one of those moms who’s über-prepared for everything, and your purse holds so much stuff, it should have been in a Harry Potter movie.

So the question becomes what should you carry? A small packet of tissues, moist baby wipes like Huggies wipes, or even a small roll of toilet paper?

There’s really only one choice: baby wipes.

English: Wet wipe (2 Thai models)

Wet wipe (2 Thai models) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every young parent knows about the importance of baby wipes. Not only are they great for wiping up baby, but they’re really useful everywhere else. Most parents we know swear by Huggies brand, but there are plenty of other great brands out there too.

My wife and I have a daughter, and we always have some wipes on hand, which we use for a lot of things. We can wipe down tables and chairs when we go to a restaurant, and I’ve used them to wipe up spills on our clothing.

I know someone who used to go to Canada on week-long fishing trips, and he said they would pack a box of Huggies wipes, rather than a lot of TP and paper towels. They could clean anything, especially food stains on shirts, plus anything else they might need them for.

Even if you don’t have kids or if your kids are older, the wipes are still worth carrying, because they can be used for so many different purposes while traveling. Anyone whose gotten used to having wipes available knows their usefulness goes way beyond cleaning up a dirty child.

When space and weight are an issue, wipes are a good choice. They’re more compact, they’re already moistened and they can clean a lot of things. And if you need regular tissues, a small pack in your purse or briefcase make a great backup.

What do you carry for personal cleaning? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Travel Goes Boom in 2015 as Retirees Stay Active

July 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the dream of many retirees to travel more once they finally leave the workforce, and it looks like it’s happening.

A recent article in the Huffington Post discusses the “booming” market as an aging population with expendable income is on the move.

They’re going by themselves, they’re going to warmer climates, they’re going more frequently than they have in the past, and they’re planning on traveling a lot in 2015. According to an AARP study, a decent number of boomers plan to take four or five vacations in 2015. And nearly half the people they surveyed plan to travel more this year than in previous years.

Free Travel-Shirt @ Berlin-Tegel Airport

Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further, many of those boomers who are still employed plan to work while traveling and not even take vacation time while they’re on the move. The upsurge in the ability to work remotely has been a great boon to those who plan to travel more during their working careers. And it’s something the younger Boomers and older Generation Xers are comfortable with.

Another number expected to rise is the number of people taking solo trips. An AARP survey from last year indicated that 37 percent of adults 45 and older took solo trips in the preceding two years and 80 percent of those surveyed planned to travel on their own in 2015.

Solo travel is more popular with people whose spouses have passed or who are divorced. And there are travel companies seeking the singles market, looking to help those who want to travel alone get out and about, something that has not always been the case in the past.

Despite the upsurge in travel, most of the folks responding to these surveys said that cost is a high priority when traveling so older travelers are looking to save money while on the move, just as are their younger counterparts.

What about you? For those of you who are retired, or nearing retirement age, are you going to travel more? Let us hear from you and leave a comment here or over on our Facebook page.

The Ultimate Easy Trip Guide for the Disorganized Traveler

June 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Yahoo Travel doles out some life changing tips for the traveler who has a hard time keeping things together in order to make a plan. We all know those folks — they’re the artists, the right-brainers, the free spirits.

The disorganized.

How do they get any work done?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working at traveling may seem like too much for them. They’re more of the throw-some-clothes-in-a-bag-and-go type. But you can still have a successful trip if you just follow a few simple tips, especially if you’re not a frequent traveler.

We really believe in using travel apps to help you plan your trip and to take screenshots of good ideas. Pick a couple apps you really like and start using them around your home town. Use them to pick some places you’d like to visit on your trip.

Also, pack your clothes with a color scheme in mind, so you can mix and match more easily, which means you don’t have to pack as much. There are also some tips on what to pack in order to make your outfit look different very easily. You really don’t need a different outfit for every day of the trip. Instead plan on doing laundry or reusing certain items. And just mix and match different items for different looks. Over packing is easy to do if you’re not careful.

It’s not a bad idea to wear shoes that are easy to take off, and don’t take any more than three pair for the entire trip. Wear the heaviest pair on the plane so you have more room in your suitcase for your smaller shoes.

One item we didn’t see in the list, but we think it’s important: if you’re flying, prep before you get to the front of the security line. Make sure you have the items you’ll need to remove from your luggage in an easily accessible part of your luggage. Make sure your ticket and ID are also easy to find. The last thing you want to do when you get to the front of the line is fumble around for your identification.

What about our frequent travelers? Any advice you would offer new travelers, especially those who are a little more. . . ah, carefree about their organization? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Travel Hacks: Book Hard-to-Get Flights With Travel Miles

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

What do you do when you can’t find a way to use the miles you want at the particular time you want it. Airlines often black out popular travel dates. Or someone else may have nipped in and gotten the only mileage seats associated with a particular flight.

A recent article on Yahoo Travel discusses an issue arising from airlines giving out more and more bonus miles: they aren’t necessarily increasing the number of airline seats sufficient to absorb all these bonus flights.

Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400

Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can sometimes be difficult to use the very travel miles you’ve worked so hard to get, so here are some solutions Yahoo Travel offers:

  • Rather than booking online, call the airline. An agent may know some insider tricks to get you a seat.
  • Rather than use a free seat, use your miles to upgrade an economy seat to the business section. The article cites the example of buying a $300 ticket from New York to LA and then upgrading to business with your miles. You pay a fee, but end up with a $2,400 ticket. We encourage you to use these upgrades on very long or international flights, however. If you have a lot of miles, you’ll sometimes be automatically bumped up to a business class seat when traveling within the U.S.
  • Use award maps to see where you can spend the miles and be flexible about your destination.
  • Think about using alternate airports. If you can get a mileage ticket to near where you’re going, you can then rent a car or hop on a train to your final destination. Keep the convenience of getting to where you’re going in mind before you decide on doing this.
  • Have a mileage guru help you out. (For a fee, of course.)
  • Book your tickets far in advance or very quickly to avoid someone else getting your seat.

Have you found some travel hacks to using your travel miles? Share them with us or on our Facebook page.

Travel Mistakes You’re Not Too Smart to Make

May 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent article on Conde Nast Traveler discusses some common travel mistakes that many travelers think they’re too smart to make.

In other words, even the wiliest traveler can fall prey to these common trip-ups from time to time.

This includes mistakes like paying the airline ticket change fees. Instead of paying a high change fee, the article suggests that you go with an airline that will allow you to change tickets fairly easily if you need to. American Airlines has a travel insurance-like program that does cost a bit, but lets you make changes for free. And Southwest tickets can generally be changed for free if you make the move far enough in advance or for a fairly small amount closer to departure.

English: Cafe Evropa in Prague Ελληνικά: Η Αρ-...

Cafe Evropa in Prague (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another thing that stood out to us was the credit card foreign transaction fee when traveling internationally. You generally want to use your credit card when traveling to get the best exchange rate, but having to pay a fee works against you. So try to get a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee and carry some cash to use for small purchases. If you are traveling overseas, try to exchange your money at your local bank. Generally, the exchange fees are lower than exchanging at your overseas destination.

The article also recommends that you don’t try to tough it out and figure out everything in your destination on your own. Instead, take some time to ask someone at your hotel how to do something or how to get to a particular destination. You can waste your vacation getting overly wrapped up in basic logistics, when you could find the fastest mode of transportation and spend more time enjoying the sights.

Do research in advance so you know ahead of time where you want to go. You can even learn whether the place you intend to stay has a helpful staff. The last thing you want to do is spend your whole vacation floundering around looking for where you want to go.

On a structured trip where you’re going to stop at several destinations, be careful that you don’t miss the one place you want to go. The article suggests that if you have a particular destination on your trip that is particularly dear to you, you should start or end your vacation there to make sure you’re able to make it, rather than squeezing it in somewhere in the middle.

Travel insurance is something we suggest you consider, especially on long trips or those once-in-a-lifetime trips. It’s something that many travelers routinely decline, but in the case that an emergency comes up, it can be a real life saver and money saver.

What are some travel mistakes you’ve made, or work hard to avoid? Leave us a comment and let us hear from you. Or stop by our Facebook page and share your ideas with our Facebook fans.

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