Remember the vacations you took with your parents? If you were lucky enough to fly, your entertainment only needed to last a few hours. But if you went over the river and through the woods to wherever you were going, then time yawned ahead of you. Unless you were properly prepared.
Nowadays, there’s no way you can possibly be bored while en route to your destination, thanks to all the entertainment and information available online? You might hear someone utter a few choice words if they discovered they didn’t have the latest episodes of their favorite podcast, that ebook they’ve been waiting to start, or the latest game app at their fingertips because they didn’t realize there wouldn’t be wifi.
So, don’t be like those unfortunate souls. Take a few moments in the days before your trip and assess your entertainment and information needs. Perhaps you want to catch up on your favorite television show. Download recently aired episodes to your tablet or be sure to add the Netflix app to your phone so that your queue is ready to go.
Second, Flydelta.com and the Delta app are excellent ways to keep track of your flight status and can be shared with your ride at the airport, so they’re not endlessly circling or waiting in the cell phone lot, wondering where you are. The Trip Advisor app can also let you spend your time in the air planning activities when you land.
If you want to get some work done while en route, set up your documents folder to sync to a cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud so your work isn’t stranded while you’re soaring through the real clouds. Evernote is also a great place to store travel information, and it isn’t wifi dependent.
New podcasts appear every day and most are a free, quick way to learn new information or while away the time. Note to Self and Serial come to mind. Check Overcast or other podcasting apps to find a few favorites.
If you’re traveling with children, a new game app can buy you valuable minutes of silence. If you haven’t investigated this realm lately, believe us, there’s so much more than Angry Birds. Try Noodles or Two Dots. The fun thing about Two Dots is that you can download the soundtrack and enjoy it as background music if you don’t want to play the game.
Travel time doesn’t have to be down time. It can be productive, entertaining, and even relaxing. Just make sure you download and sync everything before you leave home or your hotel, and you won’t be dependent on airport or airplane wifi.
Photo credit: jeshoots (Pixabay, Creative Commons)
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.
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.
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.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.
- US: summer sees hike in driving time (inautonews.com)
- Generations (keithburgess-jackson.typepad.com)
- Aging Together: White House Conference on Aging approaches (mlive.com)
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.
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.
So you’re traveling to a new country and you want to explore a bit. How do you do go about it? Should you hire a tour guide to take you around, or should you grab a map and venture out on your own? There are plenty of reasons to go either route — no pun intended — and either has its pros and cons.
Tour GuidesHiring a tour guide, whether local or from a travel agency, is a go-to option for many travelers. And why not? You can sit back and enjoy the sites as someone else does the hard work. They have all the knowledge and can share insider knowledge of all the best locales.
The downside is that you’ll spend extra cash for these guides to show you around; self-guided tours are free (except for the attractions themselves). Another point to ponder is whether you want to have a structured tour where you know where you’re going ahead of time, or if you’d like to be surprised as the guide shows you around. Just be careful with some tour guides because they often have formed relationships with the places they stop at, so they may have financial interests in making those stops.
You may be a go-getter and think a tour guide is not for you. The upside of this type of exploration is that you’re not on a time constraint and can explore a place as long as you like, or leave after a few minutes. Self-guided tours are also cheaper, because you’re not paying someone to usher you around. If money is a concern, you may want to try this option.
A pitfall with this type of tour is that you could end up flopping around aimlessly and miss out on a few important places if you haven’t done your research. So put some time into figuring out where you are going and have a plan, including a prioritized list of “must see” versus “could miss” venues.
Whether you hire a guide or grab a map and go out on your own is solely up to you. The important points to consider here are cost, your personal preferences, and where you are.
This last point is important, because personal safety is also a consideration. There may be some places where it’s not safe to venture out on your own, so the best way to see the area is with a guide. In these situations, work with an established, reputable tour guide, and not someone you just met at the airport. Don’t venture out on your own, and make sure to follow basic common sense in ensuring your own safety.
While traveling can be an enriching, wonderful, life changing experience, it can also be stressful, especially if you’re not well prepared. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, there are certain things you can do to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. We have compiled a list of our five favorite travel tips from the TravelPro team and other travel industry experts to ensure your next trip goes off without a hitch.
1. Get in the (time) zone
There’s nothing worse than wasting the first day of your trip feeling completely jet-lagged. Instead of making an abrupt switch, set your watch to the time zone you’ll be visiting as soon as you board your flight and act accordingly. This means that if you’re visiting Thailand and it’s 11pm Indochina Time, then guess what? Time for some shut eye.
2. Invest in an international SIM cardIf you travel abroad quite often, an international travelers’ SIM card is worth the investment. You can pick these up on sites like Ekit and most work in over one hundred countries around the world. You can even register your SIM card with Ekit and have it map your journey, allowing friends and family members to not only follow your travels, but ensure you’re alive and well.
3. Get your finances in order
If you’re leaving the country, do your research. Your debit card may be useless in many countries. In some places (such as Myanmar), ATMs are not connected to international networks, whereas in others (i.e. Japan), you’ll find that your card isn’t even the correct size for ATMs. Also, don’t just inform your bank of your travel plans once. Be sure to call and confirm they’ve noted your account before you leave. Finally, exchange a small amount of money — enough to last a day or so — prior to leaving the United States. In the event that you run into issues withdrawing money, you won’t find yourself stranded and penniless in a foreign country.
4. Plan for the worst
As the saying goes, expect the best, but plan for the worst. Leave copies of your itinerary and all travel documents with a trusted friend or family member. Hide an emergency credit card and back-up identification in an inconspicuous location, keep scanned copies of everything (especially your passport!) on your computer, and back-up your photos as often as possible. If you are pick-pocketed or your hotel room is robbed, you’ll be grateful you took these extra precautions.
5. Don’t make it obvious you’re a traveler
Nothing screams “I’m new here!” than walking around with tags on your luggage. As soon as you pass through customs, be sure to rip the tags off of your bags and discard them. If you need to pick up a taxi to your hotel, leave the international area make your way over to domestic arrivals. Chances are, you’ll end up paying less for that ride anyway, since some international cab drivers try to take advantage of foreign visitors.
Are you a savvy traveler? Have you picked up any valuable tips on your travels? Share your tips with other travelers in the comments section.
- How To Choose The Best International Cellular Data Plan (forbes.com)
- New SIM card gets you local data rates everywhere, launches in HP tablets and Google Chromebooks (venturebeat.com)
- Why Traveling with Gift Cards are Safer than Carrying Cash (honeymoon.answers.com)
When is the last time you ordered a meal or drink from hotel room service? If you’re like many travelers, you probably haven’t done so recently. In fact, many hotels (including one of NYC’s most popular hotels, the New York Hilton Midtown) have decided to make room service a thing of the past.
According to PKF Hospitality Research, room service accounted for just over 1.2 percent of standard hotel revenue in 2012. PFK’s Senior Vice President John Fox said in an article on PeterGreenberg.com, “I don’t think anyone makes a profit on room service, because of its labor costs. I’m sure all the big hotels will be looking at what Hilton is doing.”
A spokesperson for the New York Hilton Midtown told Yahoo Travel, “Like most full service hotels, New York Hilton Midtown has continued to see a decline in traditional room service requests over the last several years as customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve.”
As a substitute, many hotels are offering alternatives, such as the ability to order food from an on-site restaurant, while others (such as New York Hilton Midtown) will offer café-style “grab-and-go” restaurants within the hotel.
So is this really the end of an era? Not quite! In an article on HuffingtonPost.com, a spokesman for the American Hotel & Lodging Association said the number of hotels offering room service actually increased by 8 percent between 2011 and 2012.
In fact, many other hotels have gone the opposite direction, trying to make their room service offerings more of a draw by offering unique in-room dining options. For example, the JW Marriott Chicago offers an array of specialty treats, including artisan cheeses paired with craft beers, a tasting plate of appetizers and desserts, and even wine and food pairings.
If you’re a solo traveler looking for in-room dining options outside of room service, fear not. Most hotels will offer menus for local delivery options, such as Chinese food or pizza. If you find yourself in a larger metropolitan area, check out an online delivery service such as GrubHub.com or Seamless.com. You’ll be able to try out some of the city’s best restaurants without leaving your hotel room or breaking the bank.
- Why these Hilton workers see losing their jobs as a gift, and what it says about unions (pix11.com)
- The End Of Room Service? Not So Fast (flyjumptravel.wordpress.com)
- When Less Is More: Do You Need to Get Rid of Your “Room Service”? (business2community.com)
Photo credit: ChicagoCeli (Flickr, Creative Commons
Whether you’re hitting the road for business or pleasure, one thing’s for certain: it’s becoming more and more expensive to travel. Fortunately, there are dozens of little ways to save money while traveling. While the little things (such as a bottle of water from the minibar) may seem insignificant, they can add up to big savings. We saw a recent article on PeterGreenberg.com about different small ways to trim off your hotel costs, so we borrowed some of his, and came up with a a couple of our own. Here are six of our favorite tips to cut more than $100 from the cost of our hotel stay.
1. Supply Your Own Wifi
While some hotels offer complimentary wifi, others charge big bucks for it. According to HotelChatter.com, the average cost of wireless Internet service at a hotel is $13.95 per day, or about $97 per week (and is not all that fast). Instead, supply your own. Many smartphones have the ability to act as a wireless hotspot — it pays to call your wireless carrier and find out. You can also park in a nearby coffee shop, and for the price of a latte, hang out for a couple of hours and check email.
2. Bargain With Your Hotel
You may be able to negotiate some perks with your hotel. Before arriving, call to see if they’ll offer any specials, such as free parking. It also helps if you’re a member of their loyalty program. Some hotels offer better rates to loyalty program members than their “lowest” rates.
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
Everyone knows that taking something from the minibar is a bad idea — unfortunately, most people tend to break when they’re starving or need a drink. Ditto for visiting the hotel “store” or the vending machines. Instead, come prepared by stocking up on drinks and snacks at a nearby store.
5. Find Different Parking
Parking at your hotel may be the easiest option, but it may cost up to $75 per night. Do some research online instead; you may be able to find nearby parking for up to 50% less. Visit sites like BestParking.com or even Google Street View to check the parking situation. Also, check out this Lifehacker article on finding parking in a new city.
6. Don’t Just Look At Hotel Prices
You’ve made the decision to forgo location in favor of a lower price. However, if you find yourself far away from your final destination, you may not be saving much after all. Do some research and consider how much you’ll spend on cabs or other transportation costs to and from the city’s attractions. You may find that the savings at the cheaper hotel are eaten up with transportation and parking. Do the math, and you may find it’s cheaper to stay at the more expensive hotel. What are some ways you’ve trimmed costs from your hotel budget? Leave your tip in the comments section, and let us hear from you.