Christopher Penn is an expert in technology, marketing, social media, and how all three can work together to create better business opportunities for you. We’re fans of his, and read his blog fairly regularly.
Due to the nature of his job, Penn travels a lot, and recently he shared some travel tips for a better travel experience. Now, we’re going to make your life a little easier by sharing them with you.
1) Treat your hotel coffee like a teabag. Genius! The free coffee in your hotel room is flavorless and not hot enough, but if you brew it starting with hot water and place the coffee pouch in your cup before you hit the “brew now” button, you’re destined for hotter, more flavorful coffee.
2) If you forgot your toothpaste, create a saltwater solution using water and two packets of salt from a fast food restaurant. It’s not the same as proper oral hygiene, but if you’re about to meet with an important client after scarfing down a quick meal, this tactic will suffice.3) Shower with the bathroom door open. Most hotel rooms have dry air which can leave you with sinus problems. If you shower with the bathroom door open, moisture from the bathroom will permeate the rest of the room, making your hotel room a little more tolerable.
4) Sign up for frequent traveler programs. Sure, you might have to unsubscribe from a lot of emails after a while, but frequent traveler programs often offer free perks like pressing your suit, or an occasional free upgrade to a better room.
5) Always use good manners and etiquette. Not only is being polite and treating people well the right thing to do, but occasionally the good karma will benefit you, too. People may not always help people they like or who are polite, but they rarely go the extra mile for people who are rude or mean.
6) If safety is a concern of yours, ask for a room on the second floor. You’ll be less susceptible to break-ins and if a true emergency happens, you can jump from a second floor window with significantly better chances of survival. We’ll take his word on this one.
7) Get water from the ice machine instead of the bathroom tap. The water quality is often better because it’s colder and filtered.
8) If you have several hours to kill and are terrible at ironing, load up the iron with water and then mist your clothes. Give them a little stretch and hang them up to air dry, close to an air vent if possible. Or use that free ironing perk you got when you signed up for the frequent traveler program from #4.
9) Bring an HDMI cable. If you have to practice a speech you’re giving later, you can use the HDMI cable to connect your laptop to the TV — most nicer hotels have HD TVs, which have HDMI slots — and practice as if you were on stage. Plus, if you’re a Netflix fan or brought some DVDs, your laptop will double as your movie projector.
Pretty great ideas, right? So here’s a call to all you road warriors out there — what are some tips and tricks you’ve learned from your travels?
- Secrets to Happier Hotel Guests in 2013 (hmghotelsblog.com)
- Coffee solution (timesonline.typepad.com)
- 21 Travel Uses for Ziploc Bags (travelbloggerz.wordpress.com)
- Making the Most Out of Business Travel (epicatravel.com)
- Hotel-room lock hack tied to ongoing thefts (nbcnews.com)
- 8 Business Travel Tips & Tricks (flashstorageguy.wordpress.com)
Southwest Airlines has made a name for themselves in the airline industry through their light-hearted atmosphere and democratic customer service policies. Southwest’s policies generally rival those of other airlines. For example, their “Bags Fly Free” policy allows up to two bags per passenger to fly free of charge, while many other airlines charge a minimum of $25 or more per checked bag.
In an era when airlines are differentiating themselves by the type of add-ons they offer and the prices of those extra benefits, Southwest has historically made a name for themselves by keeping things simple.
Southwest is now being a bit more creative with the fees that they do charge passengers. For example, Southwest has picked up on the fact that many passengers like to board their planes early.
For an extra $10 fee, Southwest passengers can opt for the Early Bird Check-In and improve their position in line to board the plane. As it turns out, there are plenty of customers who will pay an even higher fee to avoid waiting in line to board and having the last pick of where to stow their carry on luggage. For those passengers, Southwest offers a new $40 fee which guarantees that they will be among the first 15 people to board the plane.
To some, this $40 fee just to board the plane early may seem a bit pricey, but for the right passenger this could be a valuable decision. Travelers who are bigger in size or taller than the average person generally have trouble making their way down a narrow, crowded airplane aisle or sitting in certain seats.
So this $40 early boarding fee could serve these people well. Mothers with small children or busy business people could also benefit from this service. They can board the plane quickly and easily, get settled, and busy themselves with other things while they wait for takeoff, while everyone else is still finding their seats.
Photo credit: Phil Ostroff (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Now that half of Americans use smartphones as their primary mobile device and the number of smartphone users worldwide tops 1 billion, it’s safe to say that most of us are using smartphones or some type of mobile device on a regular basis. In travel especially, it’s common for smartphone users to rely on their devices for entertainment, flight information, and especially navigation.
In the Fall of 2012, Apple came out with its own navigation program dubbed Apple Maps, kicking Google Maps off their iOS platform with their new upgrade. But they may have put the cart before the horse, because Apple Maps failed miserably in the eyes of most iPhone users — and cartographers, journalists, travel professionals, tourists, and people who were lost — due to its inaccurate directions and shoddy 3D renderings. Three months later Google Maps came out with a free iPhone app, but by this time many tech consumers had learned this lesson the hard way: If you’re taking a trip to a city largely unknown to you, it’s a good idea to study maps before you travel.
With the failure of Apple Maps came an outpouring of digital navigation apps, both older companies like MapQuest and also newer startups have been trying to capture the market share freed up by the failure of Apple Maps. So it’s easy to predict that sooner or later, you will be able to find at least one navigation application that serves you well.
But one thing that is difficult to predict is your cell phone service. You may have all the latest map applications downloaded, but if your phone can’t connect to its network, your applications will likely be useless or severely inhibited.
That’s why it’s best to spend some time scanning the layout of your travel destination before you ever leave. You can get a feel for the city before you even set foot there. It may also be useful for you to bring a paper map or travel guide with you on your trip. In the event of a lagging data network, flip through your guidebook for advice on what to do. As for what to do with your smartphone if you don’t use it for navigation. . .?
We suggest using it as a camera.
These days, it seems like everyone’s a food critic, doesn’t it? Between blogs on Tumblr, photo sharing on Instagram, and the myriad of other ways people share information, more and more people are talking about, taking pictures of, and finding even more enjoyment from their food.
But it’s not only about being a food critic. Food is becoming more of an experience. As we focus more on the quality of food that we consume, people are becoming more analytical about their restaurant choices both at home and especially when they travel.
Whole Journeys, a food travel company owned by Whole Foods Market, exists purely to connect Whole Foods customers with the food sold in their stores. Whole Journeys travelers get real, genuine experiences with the local cultures who produce Whole Foods products. The company was founded on the fact that people want to make meaningful connections to other cultures through food.
Travelers are now considering food as a major part of the decision on where to travel. For example, a couple deciding where to vacation in Europe might select Italy over Germany in part because the food selection aligns more closely with what they enjoy. Even if you’ve never been to Italy, movies like 2010’s Eat, Pray, Love drive the point home that food can be a major reason to visit a particular destination, and it can even serve as a method of self-exploration. If nothing else, a few great culinary experiences are added benefits that can enhance your trip and nicely complement your other travel experiences like sightseeing and visiting museums.
Celebrity chefs and other television personalities are also adding to the growing popularity of food tourism. Anthony Bourdain’s television shows No Reservations and The Layover focus on the best places to eat in a given city, and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives also highlights fun, unique restaurants with excellent food.
The idea behind shows, books, and websites like these is to give the viewer advice on how to eat like a local, and how to truly enjoy the experience.
One of our favorite business blogs is Spin Sucks, written by the PR company Arment Dietrich and its founder and CEO, Gini Dietrich. They frequently feature guest bloggers who are experts in their line of work, and we especially loved a post about paid time off (PTO) by Lindsay Bell, a relatively recent hire at Arment Dietrich.
Not that Lindsay is an expert in paid time off, but she’s an expert in being a working stiff (in a former life, of course) and living among the ranks of “no vacation nation,” otherwise known as professionals in the United States.
Of course, American workers have paid time off, but what little they do have is often eaten away at by life’s little nuisances: sick kids home from school, a busted sump pump. Suddenly, those vacation days in your PTO bank are gone, and you’re as pale, pasty and stressed out as you were before it ran dry.
Her post is about unlimited paid time off (UPTO), and we’re rather intrigued by the idea. We’ve written about one company’s revolutionary vacation policy , but there are less-extreme versions, too.
These company policies recognize that most American workers never actually stop working; it lets them strive for a greater work/life balance; and it implies a real sense of trust on behalf of management in the company’s employees. Companies monitor the amount of time taken and still require notice for longer periods away from the office, but in offices with UPTO, employees no longer need to ask for a half-day just to go to the doctor or run an errand in a neighboring town. They just do it.
Our take: Whether you have five days or an unlimited amount, use your vacation time, for heaven’s sake! And if your days are numbered, so to speak, don’t just use those days off to run errands, pay bills or paint your house. See the world. Make it count.
We love the idea of unlimited time off, though it may not be practical for every industry. It’s going to be hard to implement and monitor universally — we urge caution and careful thought for companies considering it — but we’ll agree with Lindsay that times have changed, and it’s time to start reevaluating policies like PTO at companies whenever possible.
- Do You Even Need a Vacation Policy? (noobpreneur.com)
- Paid leave offerings vary at Iowa businesses (thegazette.com)
- Why Don’t Americans Take More Vacation Time? [INFOGRAPHIC] (community.ally.com)
- Letter: Employees don’t take advantage of paid sick days (oregonlive.com)
Traveling abroad can be exciting, especially if you get a little time to enjoy yourself while you’re there, but whatever your reason for being overseas, being unable to get in touch with your loved ones and business contacts can really breed anxiety.
Luckily, there are plenty of options available for travelers willing to do their homework and a little legwork to stay in touch. Here are Laptop magazine’s top five ways to save money when you’re trying to stay connected overseas.
There are two main types of cell phone systems that are used widely around the world, CDMA and GSM. Sprint and Verizon Wireless use CDMA domestically, and beyond our borders, it’s used in South America and much of Asia. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM in the United States, most of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Even if your phone is technologically compatible with your destination, you’ll still need to ensure that it works with the radio bands of the area. If everything aligns, check with your carrier to find out whether they offer special rates for international calling and data.
If you have an unlocked phone, you should be able to rent a SIM card that works in your destination country. If your phone isn’t unlocked yet, you’ll need to ask your carrier for a code to do so. Stop in to your wireless provider — the official store, not the “authorized dealer” and ask for help.
VoIP stands for “voice over Internet protocol,” and it includes services like Vonage, Skype and Google Voice. If your destination has readily available wireless Internet access, you can connect your phone to the network and make calls through those services — it’s much cheaper and tends to be quite reliable provided your connection is solid. You can connect your phone to a wifi hotspot and call using one of these services. You can even use Facetime on an iPad or iPhone to speak with loved ones at home.
Having trouble finding wi-fi? Snag a mobile hotspot to get connected when you need it most. Tep Wireless and XCom Global are two companies that rent mobile hotspots to travelers and let you pay based on the amount of data you use.
When all else fails, you may want to pick up a cheap rental phone that’s internationally compatible when you reach your destination. Tep Wireless and Telestial offer rental smart phones for predetermined lengths of time for much less than other potential scenarios.
You’ll definitely pay more for international calling and data than you would domestically, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to stay in touch with colleagues, clients, friends and family while you’re abroad. Provided you do a little research before your trip, you can get a good deal that keeps you connected when you need it.
If you’ve ever gone on a business trip, especially if you’re not self-employed and are traveling for a corporation, it can be more than a little frustrating when snags and delays waste your time and you have to suffer in a middle seat, or sweat out a tight connection, without so much as a nod of sympathy from the home office.
So when something goes wrong or you’re looking for an upgrade to ease your pain, who’s responsible for ensuring that you’re comfortable when you travel? Is it the employee themselves, or is it the responsibility of the company to provide some of those perks?
Business Traveler News set out to do a little research on the their readers’ sentiments and the industry’s thoughts on the topic, and we’ve got some opinions of our own.
From the employee’s perspective, they’re sending you to work and it’s part of your 40 hours a week, but you’re often going above and beyond that time during your travels. Even if you aren’t being “paid back” with comp days or extra monetary compensation for your travel, the least a company can do is let you choose the flight that’s most direct and works best with your schedule (even if it’s a little pricier), or keep the miles for yourself that you’ve earned when you travel — even if you booked your trip with a corporate credit card. (Other options include in-flight wi-fi, GPS in your rental car, room service when you arrive and more.)
But it’s often in employees’ interest to fend for themselves, do their booking solo and more. In one of my former workplaces, we had a qualifying system that determined who did the most frequent travel, and those people earned perks through the company, whether it was seat upgrades, elite-club access or better hotel rooms. But now, those employees who really pull their weight for companies and travel a lot earn elite status with hotels and airlines on their own — sometimes better than an employer could provide for them on a budget.
Consider this: In some of my past experiences, the people who have approved my travel haven’t needed to travel for business themselves. They’re always looking for the cheapest rate, and never worry about the discomfort, since they’ve never known it themselves.
From our perspective — and according to recent Business Traveler News research — the responsibility of paying for perks and making the most of an employee’s travels doesn’t rest solely on either party. It’s in everyone’s best interest to share the responsibility, and make sure it’s taken care of.
How is business travel handled at your company?
There are plenty of places online for travelers to commiserate and share tips for smoother journeys, no matter where they’re headed. One of those places is FlyerTalk, and it’s a site that we here at Travelpro browse every day for a glimpse into the mind of the frequent traveler.
One of our favorite posts on the FlyerTalk forum is actually an old one, but with recent statistics about the number of bags lost every year in airports, it’s as relevant as ever: the secrets of luggage-theft prevention.
The original poster notes five such secrets:
First, choose an inconspicuous bag, not a prestigious label or name brand.
Second, make it a little tougher for anyone to get into your bag, whether with tape, a TSA approved lock or some other method.
Third, create a seal that will let you know immediately whether your luggage was tampered with. One of the Austin House lock models, our 3-Dial Combination Indicator TSA-Approved Lock, actually has a pop-up indicator that lets you know whether your bag has been opened, including by the TSA for an inspection — which is helpful for travelers who want to double-check their bags after picking them up from baggage claim.
The last two tips are pretty old-school: Include a note just inside your bag indicating that you’ve made a list of your bag’s contents, with photos, which would deter people from pilfering your items.
And lastly, carry your bag on the plane. (Obviously.)
Another commenter suggests “uglifying” your luggage with rope, duct tape, floral print, bumper stickers, kids’ decorations, or even a coat of bright paint, if you’re willing to do it. Even if you do a bang-up job and your “uglified” bag actually looks quite lovely, a loud bag attracts a lot of attention from the tarmac to the carousel, which means thieves are less likely to want to make off with it. (Bonus: It’ll be easier for you to spot your own bag, too.)
How many times while traveling have you caught yourself thinking, “Well, if I ran this airline…”
Yeah, so have we.
People who travel have some pretty brilliant thoughts on how the travel industry should operate — after all, they’re the ones living it when it counts the most — and the Internet has given those ideas a place to dwell permanently. 7×7, a website that calls itself an insider’s guide to San Francisco, recently offered some great ideas on five trends that would be nice to see anywhere in the United States for 2013.
- Free wi-fi access in airports and hotels: Not just available — free. Would it kill airports and hotels to offer universally free Internet access?
- Less nickel-and-diming (and more “high-fiving”): This is a great point. Bring hospitality back to the hospitality industry, offering stellar customer service, owning up to problems, and making a heroic recovery after a blunder.
- Lodging options within airports: We recognize there will occasionally be delays and cancellations beyond our control. Instead of forcing people to sleep on airport floors or shipping them to offsite motels, or expensive resort-name hotels near the airport. why not put small-room hotels inside airports? (London’s Gatwick and Heathrow, and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport each have Yotels.)
- Better bag tagging: Seeing as we can track a flight’s near-exact location in the air, couldn’t we just as easily track a checked, scanned bag?
- Actual premium airline seating: Not quite first class, not quite coach…but so-called premium seating shouldn’t just be a couple of extra leg inches. We’re talking leather seats, complimentary cocktail service, free in-flight entertainment. . .
Our team agrees with all five of these “trend” suggestions — but we give an especially hearty “YES, PLEASE!” for less nickel-and-diming. It’s amazing how much we’re charged these days in exchange for so very little — let’s bring back customer service and find ourselves pleasantly surprised rather than regularly underwhelmed.
What do you think? What trends would you like to see come to the travel industry?
- Consumer Corner: 2013 travel trends include increased fees, better WiFi, higher ethics (upi.com)
- 5 trends to look for in travel this year (usatoday.com)
- Airports Trade Layover Horror for ‘Terminal Bliss’ (abcnews.go.com)
- The 4-hour Layover: what to see in 4 hours in 4 great cities (flightnetwork.com)
Practically all travelers today, whether business or pleasure are trying to stretch their dollars and save money wherever possible, from overstuffing airline carry-on bins to spending less money on meals out during vacation.
USA Today wrote a great story a few months ago on the different ways travelers are cutting costs. We picked a few of our favorites.
If your travel includes a conference or other large-group event, don’t be afraid to look beyond the host hotel for your accommodations. Even with a discounted group rate, your host hotel may be much pricier than other nearby hotels. (But be sure to consider the costs of transportation between your hotel and where you’ll need to go each day, whether it’s another hotel or a convention center. If it’s within walking distance, you can get a little exercise, too.) Never underestimate the values of vacation rentals, including sites like airbnb.com, as well as bed-and-breakfasts and other lodging options beyond hotels.
In that vein, look beyond your hotel and the concierge-recommended restaurants to fill your stomach when you’re on the road. Seek out hotels that offer free breakfasts (you may even be able to sweet talk the front desk into upgrading you from continental to full breakfast) or evening receptions with wine and snacks. In addition, some hotels now offer rooms with kitchenettes, and there are plenty of breakfast and lunch foods in particular that fare just fine in your room’s mini-fridge.
The article even suggests buying one bottle of water and refilling in the hotel gym’s fountain. (Every little bit could help.)
If you have access to transportation, whether a rental car or public transit, or are visiting a walking-friendly city, consider wandering in search of cheaper dining options, like ethnic food or even local delis. Oftentimes, the restaurants in and around conference hotels are costlier than the ones the locals visit.
Sometimes convenience does outweigh cost, though. Particularly if you’re on a short trip, it may just make sense to fly in, stay at the most convenient hotel and do what you must to be most expeditious during your stay.
Bottom line: Make sure you look at the total cost of your trip — not just the dollars and cents of it, but the full impact of it — before committing to the super-spendthrift route. You may find that spending a bit more money ends up saving your sanity in the end.
- TripAdvisor Announces 2013 Travelers’ Choice Hotel Awards Recognizing World’s Top Properties (multivu.com)
- Budgeting: Save Money on Travel (quicken.intuit.com)
- Save Money by Researching Your Hotel Choices (hotelscheap.org)