Say farewell to the “Staycation” – for many travelers, budget-friendly tours of one’s own city have become a thing of the past. Not only has travel increased overall, but consumers are actually investing in luxury travel again, thanks to income levels returning to pre-recession levels.
Just how much is luxury travel increasing? According to an article in The (London) Guardian), the sales of luxury experiences grew 50% faster than the demand for physical goods. This change can be partially attributed to demographics – namely, the fact that the consumers who drove the luxury boom in the 1990s are now beginning to retire. Instead of acquiring material goods, affluent Baby Boomers are more interested in investing in life experiences.Demographics aside, many travel experts have noticed an overall increase in consumer confidence, meaning that travelers feel comfortable investing in high ticket, once-in-a-lifetime trips. In a recent Travel Weekly article, Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck, a luxury travel operator in Connecticut, said “In the post-meltdown era, there’s been a resetting of priorities.”
In other words, consumers, particularly the affluent, are focusing more than ever before on making memories and spending time with friends and family.
According to the Travel Weekly article, this year’s luxury travel hotspots are all over the map, including exotic eastern locales such as Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Once overlooked Eastern European hidden gems such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are also becoming quite popular, as are exotic once-in-a-lifetime experiential trips such as safari trips to Botswana.
Another surprising trend is a large increase in consumers booking trips on luxury cruise lines. When it comes to visiting exotic locales via the high seas, travelers are willing to overlook the cruise industry’s recent woes. In fact, many travelers are booking cruises that run upwards of one month. Such cruises visit multiple exotic destinations on all seven continents, making them an appealing option for those that want to get a bit of variety during their trip.
- Affluent Travelers on Deck to Spend More Vacationing in 2013, According to a New Survey of High-End Travelers by Unity Marketing (prweb.com)
- Luxe Travel Trail Blazes with the Rise of the Virtual Agency (prweb.com)
- A Patagonia Spectacular With Tauck (timespentatsea.blogspot.com)
- Luxury Cruise Vacations on The Crystal Symphony Cruise (expertscolumn.com)
Which is cheaper on a long-distance flight, buying the wifi and watching your own movies, or buying the inflight movie service? What are some other alternatives? Loading a movie onto your tablet, laptop, or smartphone and watching that. What else?
A recent trend in air travel has been for airlines to more broadly allow in-flight technology use. In some cases, airlines even encourage customers to use their technology device of choice during flight. This approach to in-flight entertainment is following two airline industry trends: personalization and price competition. Given the recent trends in price transparency for air travel, airlines are beginning to compete on the ancillary add-ons they offer. Multiple in-flight movies, on-demand television shows, and live news broadcasts are just a few of the entertainment options to which travelers now have growing access.
Airlines are also now attempting to further personalize the technology options for their customers. This means offering individual televisions for each passenger with on-demand TV viewing, and also allowing customers to use their personal mobile devices such as phones and tablets to view live web content via the plane’s in-flight wifi access.
While some travelers view wifi as something that should be available on every flight, many businesses do not reimburse their employees for wifi access in-flight. Thus, adoption of in-flight wifi is currently seen as a differentiator instead of a standard offering. The question is not necessarily “if” in-flight entertainment via mobile devices and wifi will be standard on every airline, but “when.” While in-flight wifi isn’t yet the norm, it’s a growing trend that is gaining popularity and will undoubtedly be seen as an industry standard in the near future.
So, what’s the cost of all these entertainment offers to consumers? Frontier Airlnes offers DirectTV for as low as $3.99 and several airlines including Frontier and Alaska Airlines offer wifi at varying rates depending on the length of the flight, usually between $1.95 – $39.95.
On the other hand, depending on your entertainment subscriptions at home you could pre-load a movie or television show to your personal mobile device for viewing while you fly – and all it’ll cost you is your battery life.
If you’re like many business travelers in recent years, you may have found yourself visiting the same city for a conference every year without spending any time outside of the conference circuit. However, the blurring of lines between business and leisure travel is becoming more common, as business travelers are finding ways to optimize their travel time and experiences.
With the arrival of online travel companies more than a decade ago, and mobile technology enabling even wider access to great travel deals, it is becoming more common for business travelers to take an extra day on one end or the other of a business trip to see some tourist attractions, try a few local restaurants, or visit a museum.
If you can take advantage of a day or more of leisure time while on a business trip, why not try it? For example, you could invite your spouse or significant other to join you on your trip, since you may be more likely to try a new restaurant or activity if you’re with a companion. Combining a business trip with a vacation (even a short vacation) makes sense in a lot of ways.
From a travel standpoint, it may be better for you to kill two birds with one stone. Why book multiple flights and hotels when you can cut costs and simplify your travel experience by adding on some leisure time before or after a business trip? This makes sense from a financial standpoint too — it’s less expensive to take a vacation since your company will cover at least some of the cost of the trip, even if it’s just getting you out there and back home.
And while it’s true that modern day business travelers are adding leisure time on to business trips, the reverse is also true – people are more and more frequently fitting work time into vacations. Often, travelers are deciding to schedule an afternoon of networking meetings into a vacation. That way, depending on a company’s travel and expense policy, some part of the trip can be expensed (or if self-employed, deducted on their taxes), and employees can feel like they aren’t abandoning their jobs.
Although there is a movement in favor of “unplugging” during vacations, the benefits to combining leisure and business travel can’t be ignored. After all, if you’re spending time traveling for any reason, you may as well get the most value possible out of your — and your company’s — time and money.
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.
Imagine you’re on a family road trip, and you need to make an unplanned overnight stop. What’s your strategy on finding a place to stay?
One option is to drive to the nearest hotel you see and accept their nightly rate, as high as it may be. Another option is to call multiple hotels, trying to find the best rate. Unfortunately, these options leave you at the mercy of potentially high day-of hotel booking rates, not to mention the time you’re spending looking for an affordable overnight stay when you could be doing something more valuable with your time, like eating dinner with your family, relaxing by the hotel pool, or getting that flat tire fixed.
Enter HotelTonight, an app for iPhone and Android users. The app is free to download and claims to offer discounts of up to 70% off. We first heard about the app when ABC News checked it out and compared it to Expedia and each hotel’s website.
First, the pros: six out of seven times, HotelTonight beat the prices listed on Expedia.com. Seven out of eight times, HotelTonight beat the individual hotel’s rates. Although HotelTonight’s rates were never 70% off the hotel’s rates, some of the prices were nearly 50% off, and many were above 30% off. For a last minute deal, that’s not bad.
The downside to using the app, according to ABC, is that you can’t check hotel rates until noon, and HotelTonight also offers only a limited amount of hotel selections. HotelTonight offered nine hotels, whereas Expedia.com offered nearly 500 options. So, if you’re looking for a deal on a specific hotel, that may be difficult to find on HotelTonight.
The bottom line is, if you’re looking for a last minute deal on a hotel, and if you don’t have your heart set on staying in a specific hotel, HotelTonight could be a great way to find a last minute deal on a place to spend the night, especially if plans suddenly change, and you need a room quickly.
So if you’re the type of person who enjoys a little spontaneity in your travels, why not try HotelTonight? It could be a great money and time saving solution for you.
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?