6 Tips for Making Solo Travel Amazing

March 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve all heard that we should be careful when traveling alone, and we sometimes worry that this keeps people from traveling at all.

The whole “you need to be comfortable with yourself” philosophy aside for the moment, we think it’s possible, and even enjoyable, to travel by yourself.

We recently read an article in Women’s Health about traveling alone. Although the article is aimed at women, men could benefit from some of the tips as well, such as dressing more conservatively than you would at home, especially if you’re going to visit a country where the culture is very different from your own.

Also, avoid dressing like you’re going to Home Depot on a Saturday morning. Try to fit in more with the local fashion, if only to avoid being identified as a tourist. Keep your gadgets, if you have them with you, hidden away in public places in order to avoid scrutiny and increased security.

If you want to meet people while traveling, go on a group trip as an individual. This way, you can meet people without having to make too much effort as it’s a lot easier to make new friends within such a group. Going somewhere as a volunteer is another great way to meet new people because in most cases, you will work together with others as a team to accomplish something meaningful.

We also liked the advice “be unapologetically selfish.” When you travel alone, you get to see only the things you want to see, so you can skip the collection telegraph pole photographs just because someone else wanted to see them. And you don’t have to visit the museum everyone else says you “have to” see.

One of our employees is a woman who has traveled extensively for business. She said these tips apply for business travelers too, because she tries to make some time to see the sights. She strongly recommends having a game plan in mind for what you want to see. This is especially important if you’re traveling on business, because your free time will be fairly limited.

She says she has a hard time taking the “Be unapologetically selfish” advice in the article to heart, but was intrigued by the idea. She thinks that both women and men should make an effort to have some down time just for themselves while traveling.

What special things do you do for yourself, or special precautions do you take, when you’re traveling alone? Do they work more for personal travel or business travel? Leave a comment below or post something on our Facebook page.

Avoid Selfies on Vacation

February 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

An October article by Narina Exelby on the Kitbaggers website really struck a chord with us, when it comes to vacation photos. She discussed how taking photos of yourself — selfies — while on vacation can distract you to the point where you fail to relish the beauty and new experiences around you.

We couldn’t agree more.

Exelby argues that selfies take time away from what is really important when traveling, which is exploring new things and remaining present to appreciate the moment.

Eiffel Tower SelfieAlthough everyone is free to take selfies at any time, we agree with Exelby. Slow down and take a look around you when on vacation. Enjoy yourself and don’t worry about telling people back home what you’re up to.

Posting a selfie to Twitter or Facebook can take as much as three minutes. If you do that five times a day, that’s 15 minutes per day spent posting photos. That’s over an hour a week. That time really adds up, and your vacation becomes more about posting photos of yourself rather than enjoying the vacation. Instead of admiring the Eiffel Tower, you’re focused on getting the best possible shot of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Another concern is that constantly updating your social media streams with vacation photos can be a security risk. That photo of you in a canoe in Florida lets folks know you’re not home, and won’t be for a while. And if you’re traveling some place where your personal safety is at risk, you may want to keep a lower profile.

You can still take pictures. You can even take selfies. Photos are a great way to remember fun times you’ve had. But don’t let the photos become the main driver of your vacation. It should definitely be the vacation, and your time to relax, that comes first.

Photo credit: Carlos Mota Jr. (Fickr, Creative Commons)

Bring This, Not That: Prepared Dishes

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Food and the holidays are like salt and pepper. They go together naturally.

If your family expects you to make a blueberry pie every Thanksgiving, you probably want to oblige. But should you bake it at home and take it with you, or make it once you get there? It’s an easy question if you live in the same city, but what if you have to travel a long distance for the holidays?

Cranberry sauce & Gravy

Cranberry sauce & Gravy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re traveling by car, you can make everything ahead of time and put it into a carrying case or cooler. But if you’re flying, you may not want to cart a pie through airport security. Even though TSA’s website says “we’ve seen just about everything,” they also warn that a carry-on pie may be subject to additional screening.

In other words, make the food when you get there.

The TSA has a list of items you can’t carry onto the plane, including cranberry sauce, gravy, and soup. You could carry them on as long as they measured under 3.4 ounces, but that won’t put much food on the table.

You could always check-in the food items in question, but the containers could easily break during the baggage handling process of your flight. Cans or bottles could explode from the pressure, or a glass bottle could break from rough handling from a baggage handler, or when it lands onto the baggage claim carousel from the chute.

If you cook with special ingredients or have food allergies or dietary concerns that force you to eat carefully, weigh the pros and cons of packing or carrying these items. Usually your best bet is to buy the food items when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, it’s always possible you may be heading somewhere without many options, like a small town in the Midwest. In that case, consider ordering from a specialty food store or even Amazon. Or you could just box the items up and ship them yourself. Either way, your favorite foods and ingredients will be waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

Have you ever shipped, carried, or checked food items for the holidays? How did you do it? Would you do it again or have you found a new method? Leave a comment or let us hear from you on our Facebook page.

3 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Extreme edition

October 23, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

For the last few blog posts, we’ve looked at different travel scams and petty crimes from Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams. We’ve talked about scams, pickpockets, and even identity theft. But we’ve saved the most outrageous scams for last. Scam artists will go to almost any length to get your money, so be on the look out for these.

1. Thrown Baby

Using pretend children is a low blow, but it happens. A woman will throw a baby, which is usually a doll so that you catch it. The woman and her accomplices will rummage through your pockets taking all they can find while you try to save the “baby.”

2. Expensive Taxi Driver

English: A checker taxi cab. Deutsch: Ein Chec...

English: A checker taxi cab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t know where you’re going, taxi drivers may take more twists and turns than necessary to get you to your location in order to make your bill higher. I have had this happen to me. When I questioned their route they said they wanted to “avoid traffic.” Make sure you’re only taking licensed cabs from official taxi stands, and if possible, double-check your route on your smartphone.

3. Windshield Washers Scam

We actually see this more in the United States than in foreign countries. A homeless person, or seemingly homeless, will run up to your car at a stoplight and start washing your windows, hoping for a tip. If you don’t do it, they’ll yell and raise a fuss, hoping to embarrass you into paying them to stop.

We don’t want you to be afraid of traveling. Rather, we want to make sure you travel smart. So please look over these possible scams, and when you travel, move confidently, say no politely, and continue moving. Avoid the situations where you might be scammed and you’ll finish your vacation with everything — hopefully — still on budget and on schedule.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Money Edition

October 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For the last couple of blog posts, we’ve been discussing different travel scams and petty crimes found on a Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams. In our last two posts, we’ve discussed pickpockets and con artists. Now let’s look at how people can take your money through general theft or even identity theft.

1. The Drop and Swap

This one happens when someone is returning your change. They will drop it, pick it up, but give you less than what you should be given. They might exchange the dropped money for coins or bills that are worth less. It’s important to know the currency in the places where you’re traveling. Know what each bill and coin is worth, how much you are giving, and how much you should get in return.

2. The Cashier on the Phone

Credit card

Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a sneaky one. The cashier will act busy on their phone, but in reality, they are taking a picture of your credit card to get your card information, which they’ll use later.

3. Slow Counting

A cashier will count your money very slowly. While this may not seem like a big deal, they are doing this to see if you notice they are counting a bill twice. Count the money again yourself, once you’ve been given your change.

4. The Fake Takeout Menu

If a menu is slipped under your hotel door be warned! It may not be a real menu. You’ll call the restaurant to place an order, only to have your credit card number stolen, and no one will show up with your food either. So now you’re hungry, and significantly poorer.

5. The Fake Front Desk Call

If you ever get a call from the front desk saying there were problems with your credit card, always go down to sort out the problem. Scam artists have been known to call hotel rooms asking for credit card information, especially in the evening. Instead, they steal your credit card number and take your money. But if you go downstairs to deal with the problem, you can make sure you solve the right problem.

Have you ever been scammed on your travels? What happened? How did they do it? Leave a comment, or tell us on our Facebook page.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Payment for Service Edition

October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

People all around the world have come up with some clever ways to con tourists. Tourists are often a target due to having little knowledge of an area, the culture, and the currency. Because of this locals have created interesting ways to make you pay for something you did not want or even take.

We recently found a great infographic on Lifehack.com that showed several different tourist scams and how to avoid them. We wanted to share them with you here, over the next few days.

1. Friendship Bracelet

The friendship bracelet scam is when someone will come up to you and offer a friendship bracelet. They will try to put one on your wrist as if you’re their new best friend, and want you to share in their feelings of warmth. If they succeed, they will demand payment even if you had refused in the first place, and make a scene if you refuse.

2. The Shoe Shiner

Shoe shine

Shoe shine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone will drop their shoe shining brush in front of you and begin to shine your shoe. Afterward, they’ll demand payment for the big favor they did for you. This happened to me in Chicago during a visit — a shoe shiner started cleaning my shoe and then demanded I pay him. I gave him a dollar so there wasn’t a hassle, and I left with one shoe shinier than the other.

3. Woman Selling Rosemary

Rosemary is supposedly a sign of friendship, so an offer of rosemary is like the friendship bracelet scam we mentioned earlier. If a woman offers you rosemary, be aware that she might try to read your fortune. After that, she’ll expect to be paid for her services, and will loudly express her displeasure if you refuse.

4. A Rose for your Girlfriend

If someone were to sell you a rose in front of your girlfriend and you said no, you might have a very upset girlfriend later. Rose sellers are counting on this. The problem is that these roses are extremely overpriced. Once you touch the rose, the’ll demand payment for their single rose. This scam is common at restaurants especially ones with outside seating.

5. A Free Massage

You are laying at the beach when a man or woman comes over offering to give you a massage. They may start to rub your arm to give you a “sample.” No matter how long they did it, they’ll expect to be paid.

In all of these examples, the scam is not that these things they do or don’t have value, it’s the scene that the scammer will make if you refuse payment. While you might be able to argue that the masseuse or the fortune teller didn’t do anything, it’s the scene they’ll cause that creates the problem. It will attract unwanted attention, and may even bring in the police or anger the crowd. It’s best to just say “no thank you” when approached and keep moving.

But if you get caught, hand the person a few dollars — from a small roll of bills you keep separate from your “main stash” — and move on quickly.

Have you ever seen any of these scams or fallen prey to them? How did they turn out? Let us hear from you in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Better Than Wrinkle Cream? Travel’s Anti-Aging Effect

July 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s a sobering statistic: In a study of 2,300 American workers who get paid vacation, only 25 percent said they take advantage of every day they’re allowed. Sixty-one percent said they continued to work even while on vacation.

There are plenty of other blog posts — books, even — that could be written on American work culture and why we don’t take advantage of the benefits of our jobs. This blog post is a plea to consider traveling more.

Travel Keeps You Healthy

178.

(Photo credit: Deb Stgo)

Why? A recent article in the Dubai Chronicle documented the results of a survey several existing studies on leisure travel’s health effects and found that it actually boosts cognitive and cardiovascular health, particularly in middle-aged people or older.

One study, for example, followed women from 45 to 64 years old for 20 years; women in the study who took vacation twice a year were at much lower risk of having a heart attack or dying of a heart-related disease than those who traveled every six years.

If you’ve encountered significant delays and other frustrations during your travels, you may feel the exact opposite. But I think that to reap the anti-aging effects of travel, you have to flip the old adage around: It’s the destination, not the journey.

My Own Experience

I can personally attest to this, actually. My wife and I are fortunate enough to be able to travel to the Caribbean a fair amount, and it’s absolutely essential for helping us relax.

A big part of the relaxation for me is shaking up my routine and immersing myself in a totally different environment and culture, away from my everyday lifestyle. Vacation is an opportunity to shake yourself out of your deepest ruts.

I am, unfortunately, often part of that 61 percent of workers who continue to work while on vacation, but it’s for self-preservation. I go through my emails once a day and flag the important ones for my attention when I return. It only takes a few minutes and makes coming back to work the following week a lot less stressful.

I’d love to hear whether you connect with the findings of this survey. Do your vacations alleviate your stress levels? How do you cope with the stress of returning to a full inbox? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Travelpro and Atlantic Luggage Announce the “2014 Father’s Day Gift Guide” [PRESS RELEASE]

June 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Make this a Special Father’s Day with Travelpro and Atlantic Luggage

Travelpro, the original inventor of Rollaboard luggage and Atlantic Luggage, part of the Travelpro family of brands, are proud to announce their “2014 Father’s Day Gift Guide.” Make this an unforgettable Father’s Day with a luxurious gift from their expansive lines of innovative spinner and carry-on luggage, designed to suit the needs of the business and leisure traveler.

Travelpro 21 inch Blue Marquis Spinner

Travelpro 21 inch Blue Marquis Spinner

Surprise the special man in your life with the new Travelpro Marquis 21″ Expandable Spinner. With its revolutionary self-aligning MagnaTrac system, magnets instantly align the 4 spinner wheels to roll straight in any direction the user desires. Moreover, the lightweight Marquis 21″ Expandable Spinner includes tapered expansion capability of up to 2″, maximizing packing flexibility while keeping the center of gravity low, making it the rolling carry-on item of choice this Father’s Day. Available in both stylish sapphire blue and elegant black, the Marquis 21″ Expandable Spinner retails for an affordable $179.99.

“The ‘2014 Father’s Day Gift Guide’ provides shoppers with a variety of high quality luggage choices that are wonderful gifts for fathers who travel for business or leisure,” said Scott Applebee, Vice President of Marketing for the Travelpro family of brands.

The Travelpro Platinum Magna 22″ Duffel Bag is also an excellent gift for Father’s Day. Lightweight and built to go the distance, this spacious carry-on duffel features a comfortable adjustable shoulder strap, multiple pockets to store bulky items like belts, cables and socks and a large open area for high capacity packing. Additionally, the Platinum Magna 22″ Duffel Bag is part of Travelpro’s 2013 TGA Innovation Award winning Platinum Magna Collection. The award is an acknowledgment of the cutting edge consumer research that served as a foundation for the design of the line. Ideal for a two – three day business trips or a weekend vacation getaway, the Duffel Bag is available in fashionable sienna and black fabric colors with leather accents, for a retail price of $169.99.

Atlantic 25 inch Compass Spinner

Atlantic 25 inch Compass Spinner

Make family travel effortless and stress-free this Father’s Day with the Atlantic Compass Unite 25″ Expandable Spinner. Featuring the revolutionary Link2Go system, two pieces of luggage can connect back to back with Velcro straps so you can easily roll two pieces with one hand and hold your child’s hand in the other. The Link2Go feature is ideal for Dad when he is travelling with the family where multiple pieces of luggage are the norm. The 25″ Expandable Spinner is available in elegant Cobalt Blue and Black fabric colors, for a retail price of $139.99.

Travelling can be hassle free this Father’s Day with the Travelpro Maxlite 3 Garment Bag. This versatile, lightweight garment bag is the ideal carry-on to keep Dad’s suits, pants and dress shirts wrinkle free. Water resistant coating protects contents from foul weather, while interior pockets keep essentials handy and ready for use. The adjustable shoulder strap adapts to users’ different heights. The Maxlite 3 Garment bag is available in elegant black for a low retail price of $99.99.

Additionally, the Travelpro Crew 9 Business Brief is an ideal fit this Father’s Day for Dads who travel on business and want highly organized convenience and style. The Crew 9 Business Brief features multiple pockets, a padded laptop sleeve and a convenient business organizer for everyday use at the office or for business travel. In addition, the Crew Business Brief includes an adjustable, non-slip shoulder strap for maximum comfort when traveling. The Crew Business Brief is available for a retail price of $129.99.

About Atlantic Brand Luggage

Since 1919, the Atlantic brand has been synonymous with affordable, value-added and lightweight luggage. As a market leader in the lightweight luggage segment, including neatly designed uprights and spinners to trendy and smart garment bags and totes, all Atlantic branded luggage is of superior quality and durability. Whether for business or pleasure, travel is easier with Atlantic luggage, now part of the Travelpro family of brands. Please visit Atlantic Luggage at www.atlanticluggage.com for a list of the latest products available for purchase and the nearest retail locations.

About Travelpro

For over 25 years, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travelers worldwide. Since transforming the ease of modern day travel with The Original Rollaboard wheeled luggage, Travelpro has been the brand of choice for flight crews and frequent travelers worldwide. Travelpro is dedicated to building a lifelong relationship with its customers by consistently understanding and exceeding their needs. Travelpro was honored to receive the New Product Innovation Award from the Travel Goods Association (TGA) in March 2013 for the revolutionary Platinum Magna luggage collection.

Please visit the Travelpro website for a full list of the latest products and retail locations. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Will Airlines Use Customization For Good Or Evil?

April 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

On the horizon for the airline industry: customizable fares.

A little further out on the horizon: angry passengers.

The airline industry is developing technology that will allow them to create a customized airplane fare for you — and only you — using personal information such as gender, marital status, and how often you fly. This information will enter an algorithm that will decide the fare amount you are required to pay. Amazon.com already uses a similar tool which suggests items for you to purchase based on your browsing and previous purchase history.

AA MD80

AA MD80 (Photo credit: Blue Pylons)

Advocates of this method argue that this change will give the travelers more control. In theory, travelers will be able to visit the website of a travel agency, set the desired travel locations and select the airline with the most affordable price. Travelers would also be able to check for other options, such as wireless Internet, and view any extra fees that may be attached to any trip.

The idea of a fare customization has been greeted with skepticism. Opponents of the proposed change argue this is nothing more than a marketing ploy. They worry that by giving away so much personal information, the airline industry could easily check on your credit history and income information. Instead of giving you the cheapest fare based on what you need, they could use that information to determine how much you could afford to pay. Individuals with more disposable income could be charged much more for a flight than the person seated next to them. And without knowing the formula used to set the price, there’s no true way to know who is getting charged fairly and who is being overcharged.

There is no need for immediate concern; the technology for customizable airfares is still in the development phases, years away from actually being implemented. However, the idea still raises a few eyebrows from those who are concerned with how their personal information is being used by major corporations. In the end, it is not the technology that we can call “good” or “evil,” but the intent behind the way it is used.

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How Will NFC, Biometrics and Wearable Tech Affect Travel?

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If a group of people traveled twenty years into the future, from 1994 to today, and saw the amount of commercial technology available, they would be staggered at the sheer connectivity we enjoy. We have portable computers and tablets, sports bands that monitors our heartbeats, and mobile phones that we use for everything except for making calls. We may not be living in the age of the Jetsons, but we’re getting close.

And we’re continuing to advance, thanks to a group of people who specialize in “outcome-focused thinking,” or thinking that creates ideas without worrying of positive or negative consequences.

At Walt Disney World, biometric measurements a...

At Walt Disney World, biometric measurements are taken from the fingers of guests to ensure that the person’s ticket is used by the same person from day to day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This raises the question, where are we going next? According to Rob Girling, the co-founder of the Artefact Group and one of the more prominent outcome-focused thinkers, he sees technology moving towards three directions.

  • Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC will play a large role in the future of wearable technology. NFC, when partnered with wearable devices, will function as a form of identification, allowing the wearer to create checkpoints at restaurants, make payments and unlock certain secure areas.
  • Biometrics: In some ways, biometric data (iris pattern, thumbprint, heart beat) is almost like NFC technology. Biometric sensors can be placed in hotels or airports for security purposes, and will only respond to a specific individual’s biometric data. Think unlocking a door with your finger print or identifying yourself on a plane ride with an eye scan. We’re already seeing this with the iPhone 5’s thumbprint scanner.
  • Natural Language Processing: As impressive as NFC and biometrics sound on paper, natural language processing may be the most promising and useful advancement in technology. NLP will allow your device to actually follow through with a complicated task and execute a complex search query, such as finding the cheapest price for a car rental. Asking SIRI to set a reminder is simply the first step on the NLP ladder.

So what does this mean for the travel industry? In some ways, traveling will become a lot easier. Imagine wearing NFC tech that you can wave at a security checkpoint or can use to make payments with your phone.

Biometrics are already being used in some office security protocols, such as a thumbprint scanner for a computer, or even Dublin Airport in Ireland using an automated passport scanner for immigration checks.

And you can already use Siri or any number of Android personal assistants to find nearby restaurants, gas stations, and tourist attractions. How much longer before you say, “Siri, rent a car for me”?

Outcome-focused thinking is already making itself felt in the travel industry. The next 20 years will be interesting, and we’re looking forward to seeing what that time is going to bring.

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