Shorter Waits, Better Rides Coming to Amusement Parks?

September 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We recently read an article on Yahoo Travel that will make our kids jump up and down with excitement: the future of amusement parks is all about shorter lines, better rides, better food, and more interaction.

According to the article, the future of amusement parks looks like it’s going to be quite different from what we experience today and especially different from the past.

Dunas Park 2

Dunas Park 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. The use of smartphones and other personal devices will begin to reduce line length. Instead of having to wait in line for 2 hours, you can check in with your device and be called over to your spot when the ride is almost ready for you. Kind of like the flashing buzzer at a restaurant. If you’ve already experienced Disney’s FastPass, you’re familiar with the idea.

2. Expect more interaction in the parks. Amusement parks are expected to become “full on participatory adventures” in the near future. The article is a bit cagey about what that means, but we suspect there will be more of a role playing game aspect to park attendance. Think Renaissance Faire, only cooler.

3. Darker themes to parks will be more common. To appeal more to adults (especially the largest demographic, Generation Y), parks will start to seem a bit more like a darker type of video game rather than focusing solely on child-friendly/child-only themes. Things will be scarier.

4. Parks are going to be greener. Amusement parks use up a lot of energy and they’re going to have to start finding ways to minimize their impact from increasing recycling initiatives to reducing energy usage. Expect to see more of this in amusement parks across the board.

5. The food is going to be better. With the continued “foodiezation” of America, it’s no surprise that amusement parks are expected to get on board with this ongoing trend. (Again, look at Generation Y’s trends with food.) Food already costs an arm and a leg within parks, so increasing the quality is a great way for parks to increase the amount of money they can charge their captive audience in order to eat. Plus, it’s another way to increase appeal to adults.

What else would you like to see in your favorite amusement parks? Leave your ideas in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

How Millennials Are Transforming the Travel Industry

July 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A week or so ago, we talked about how Baby Boomers are traveling more and more, changing the face of leisure travel. But as the largest demographic group in the US, Millennials are making their own voices heard as millennial travelers.

Road Warrior Voices recently published an recent article by Jessica Festa, who self-identifies as a millennial traveler. She notes the image people have of Millennials as young folks is starting to age out, along with Millennials themselves.

Right now, Millennials fall between ages 16 – 27. Older people on this spectrum are getting both families and fancy jobs. Millennials are growing up and earning money to spend on travel.

English: beach () Русский: Пицунда, пляж ()

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it turns out, Millennials are also a bit more frugal than other groups. A November 2014 survey by Resonance indicated that Millennials spend considerably less per trip than the average U.S. traveler: about $888 per trip versus the average traveler’s $1,347.

This can be seen as part of the millennial mindset that seeks out happiness rather than focusing just on money. Millennials tend to seek meaningful connections when they travel, which is forcing some companies to offer more meaningful experiences, but for less money, which is increasing the popularity of volunteer vacations and ecotours.

The same survey found that Millennials travel more than other age groups and have a greater tendency to take group vacations.

Although there’s another stereotype that says Millennials use social media to the point where they don’t even enjoy being in the moment, the fact is they often use social media to form closer connections to the places they traveling to. (Which should be a hint to travel destinations to be on social media themselves, in order to grow those relationships and encourage return visitors.)

They also use social media to plan their trips and find deals while they’re out on the open road. They’re also not averse to staying with complete strangers as proven by the couch surfing and AirBNB trend. They’re certainly not the only folks using these technologies, of course.

How about it, Millennials? What kinds of things do you do when you travel? Leave us a comment, or visit our Facebook page on your mobile phone and let us hear from you.

Travel Robots Are Taking Over Our Vacations

June 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

While we still don’t have jetpacks, or personal hovercraft to take us to work, we are seeing more robots that assist travelers with mundane, easily automated tasks.

After reading about them in a Yahoo Travel article, these robots sound like they will add a lot of comfort and convenience to the weary traveler.

English: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport entrance

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First up is the car parking valet robot, located in Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport. This handy robot allows travelers to drop their cars off and then actually transports them to be held in a secret parking location. When you return, the parking robot will already have your car waiting for you, and you don’t have to tip. That sounds pretty great.

Another exciting robot is located at the award-winning Indianapolis airport. This robot is located atop a Segway and gives travelers directions around the airport. It’s like the virtual presence device Sheldon created on Big Bang Theory when he met Steve Wozniak.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has included some robots on the payroll as well. These robots sort baggage and load it onto carts.

Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Quantum of the Seas has an even more exciting robot. It actually makes drinks! Travelers input drink orders into a tablet and the robot cranks them out for you.

And finally, Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, has put a robot to work delivering room service. The main benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about looking respectable when your room service arrives. We’re not sure about the etiquette of robot tipping, however.

We do wonder how far away we are from fully automatic baggage checks. It seems like it would be a pretty great use of this type of technology and it sounds like some places are already halfway there.

We noticed that the bottom of the article contained a survey for readers to indicate how comfortable they are with the new robot technology that is beginning to surround us. Over half of those answering said they are excited about the technology with a much smaller percentage of people worried about robots taking jobs and/or destroying humanity.

How do you feel about robots in the travel business? Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment, or just leave one below. Let us hear from you.

Bring This, Not That: Work On a Vacation

May 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

At TravelPro we encourage folks to take “real” vacations where they can truly unplug, disconnect, and fully relax.

However, I’ll admit to weeding through my email inbox and taking care of easy emails during the break, just so I’m not buried on my first day back. That can almost take the joy out of time off!

But other than that, I don’t take work with me during the time I’m supposed to be enjoying time with my family. I think it’s important that we distance ourselves from work as much as possible. Here’s why you should leave your work at home the next time you take a vacation.

A change of scenery can let you refresh yourself mentally. People with stressful jobs may need a break. We think there should be an opportunity to shut off and log out. Studies have shown that taking time off is actually good for you both physically and even professionally.

Cruise ship Norwegian Dawn leaving Ney York Ci...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taking time off can actually help rejuvenate your work life. You come back with a renewed sense of energy and perhaps even a different perspective. Things that seemed like huge problems before your trip no longer seem so daunting. People who seemed extremely annoying no longer make you grit your teeth. And you may find that a true break makes you appreciate your job when you come back because you can almost see it with new eyes.

On the other hand, some folks enjoy working while traveling because it gives them the ability to take longer vacations. Or they have a job that allows them to work from anywhere, thus encouraging a lifestyle of more travel and exploration, without needing to be “at work.” In those cases, you can take longer vacations if you take work with you.

Even if you plan to work during your vacation, if you’re going to family events, focus on your family and be present rather than investing time in going through work on your phone. It can be seen as rude, especially if you don’t get to see them very often.

What are your thoughts on taking work on vacation? Have you? Would you? What are some ways you disconnect from life at home while you’re on a break? Leave us a comment below or stop by our Facebook page and share your thoughts.

How is Airbnb Changing the Travel Industry?

April 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve no doubt heard of Airbnb, the online travel site that allows travelers to book stays in private homes and apartments, working directly with the hosts. It’s a fantastic way to get a good deal on a room, find a larger space to rent, and even meet local people while you’re traveling.

Many of the rental properties are actually private homes with rooms where travelers can interact with hosts on their own stomping grounds. You can also rent entire homes, cabins, or apartments for one night, or a few weeks.

You can chit chat with your host, eat a home cooked breakfast and get travel tips straight from the locals sitting across the table from you.

According to a recent segment on CBS News, Airbnb booked 37 million room nights last year.

Sansome & Lombard Streets in San Francisco

Sansome & Lombard Streets in San Francisco

“It’s not just a gamechanger, it’s a huge gamechanger,” said travel writer Peter Greenberg.

Airbnb is mainly a place for leisure travelers not business travelers, although if you wanted a little adventure, business travelers can partake as well.

In San Francisco, Greenberg noted, there are almost as many Airbnb available as there are hotel rooms.

And in a place like San Francisco, which is so expensive, looking for a homeowner with an affordable spare room is a fantastic option for tapped out travelers.

We even know someone who rented a room in Manhattan for $90 a night while nearby hotels were around $200. She even got free parking in front of the apartment building.

Another friend booked a small cabin in rural Idaho on a working goat farm, where she and her family were treated to ice cream made by the property owners and daily romps with goats.

We suspect that Airbnb is only going to grow and get bigger and better, especially as people are trying to stretch their travel dollars, as well as expand their horizons.

Have you ever stayed in a Airbnb property? What did you think? Would you do it again? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Photo credit: Brad Coy (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Important Travel Documents For Traveling With Kids

February 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling with your children isn’t like running down to the grocery store with them. Just like you need your own passport and other travel documents, you need to have certain documents with you when you travel with your kids.

The Huffington Post has an extensive and helpful list they suggest you carry with you when traveling internationally with your family.

Air Canada planeObviously, a passport isn’t going to be a necessity on domestic trips, but HuffPo suggests you bring physical copies of the following: your child’s birth certificate, a signed permission slip if there’s a parent who isn’t traveling with you, vaccination certifications, travel insurance, emergency contacts, telephone numbers for healthcare facilities at your destination, emergency first aid instructions, a list of your child’s allergies, and your full itinerary with contact information.

The list makes a lot of sense, although it may be a little too thorough. Be aware that carrying all that paper documentation can be a security risk. (Think about what happens if that information were stolen.) But you can keep a lot of it on a cloud-based app, such as Evernote or Google Drive, which you can download to your phone or tablet as needed.

On the other hand, what if your phone charger is damaged or you end up in a remote site with no service? With Evernote, you can download documents to your phone’s app, and then lock it with a security code. Otherwise, you could end up with a huge phone bill if you need to access another country’s wireless network to access the information.

Be sure to do your research before you travel and know what you need. You may not need everything on this list for some of the places you’re visiting, so it’s better to determine it in advance.

Photo credit: Caribb (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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)

Have a Little Time on Your Hands? Travel by Train

August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to your travel “bucket list,” there’s one thing that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime: travel by train.

There’s a common misconception that train travel is boring and downright “old-fashioned” — after all, many people would argue that airplanes were invented for the sole purpose of replacing travel by train. The truth is, train travel is making a comeback, and if you haven’t done so yet, we encourage you to jump on the bandwagon railroad car at least once.

Here are eight great reasons why you should take a trip by train:

1. You can stop and smell the roses

English: The (arguably?) most breath-taking tr...

English: The (arguably?) most breath-taking train travel in the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While some people simply adore air travel, others find it extremely stressful. The long lines, massive crowds, the “race-against-the-clock” atmosphere or the threat of being trapped in the airport on a long flight delay can be downright anxiety-inducing for some. A relaxing train ride is not only a great option for those that dislike air travel, it’s also a great way to simply relax and enjoy the journey.

2. It’s easier (and more comfortable!) than driving

Train travel has all of the benefits that the good old American road trip does, and then some. Unlike driving, however, you don’t have to stare at mile after mile of boring highway. You can actually get up and walk around. Oh, and if your family starts bickering? You can go hide in another car.

3. It’s a great way to see the country

Sure, air travel will get you to your destination faster, but why not enjoy the view for once? Whether you’re traveling from coast to coast or just a few states away, the beautiful and unique sights you’ll see from a train window will give you a whole new appreciation for this country.

4. You can make stops

Unless you’re planning on parachuting, air travel has one major disadvantage: you can’t make pitstops along the way. Going from New York to Miami? Why not stop in Washington DC, the beaches of North Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia along the way for a little sightseeing?

5. You can increase your travel cred

Sure, you may not be getting off the train in each state, but if you’re traveling by train, you can definitely add those states to the laundry list of states you’ve visited. You’re hereby granted permission.

6. It’s great for families

Travel by train is thrilling for kids of all ages. Not only will your little ones adore the experience, but it’s also a great way to squeeze some learning into your vacation. If you’ve got a child who loves Thomas the Tank Engine, they’ll get a thrill out of a train trip!

7. It’s a great way to meet people

Train travel is a great option for solo travelers, especially when in other countries. Need proof? Watch Before Sunrise… and then go book your train ticket.

8. Upgrades are affordable

For the average traveler, airline upgrades are simply impossible to afford. When planning a trip by train, you’ll be pleased to discover that first class upgrades are actually quite affordable. You can spring for that private sleeping cabin, and it won’t break the bank.

These are just a few of the many reasons why we suggest everyone take a trip by train at least once in their lifetime. Whether you’re traveling within the US or planning the trip-of-a-lifetime abroad, you’ll likely find that train travel isn’t just relaxing, it’s also quite memorable.

Avoid Work Stacking Up When You Go On Vacation

July 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Many people avoid taking vacations for one simple reason: they’re nervous that while they’re away, things will fall to pieces back at the office. (You know, because the whole business will shut down if we’re not there. Never mind the 12 years it was in existence before we ever showed up.)

The fact is, we all need some time away, especially in today’s ever-connected world. Vacations are not just important for your mental, physical and emotional health, they’re also important for your work performance. Just a few days away from work, emails and phone calls can help you become more passionate about your work again.

W Hotel, working on a laptop, San Francisco, C...

W Hotel, working on a laptop, San Francisco, California, USA (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

So, when you take time off from the office, truly take time off. No work, no answering emails in the mornings, no fiddling with your phone over lunch. Your boss doesn’t let you take a nap in the middle of the day, so why are you working when you’re on vacation?

Next time you’re planning a long vacation, use these tips to avoid work stacking up while you’re away.

1. Plan early

While your HR department or manager may only request two weeks’ notice, you’ll ideally want to notify your manager or colleagues a few months ahead of time. This will give everyone time to adjust to your absence and plan appropriate coverage for your work.

2. Get coverage

Depending on your job, there are likely certain things that simply can’t be ignored while you’re away. Since you’ve already informed your colleagues of your absence ahead of time, you’ll want to make a list of things you’ll need help with while you’re away. Many times, people are happy to pitch in, knowing that you’ll do the same when they need a break. Just don’t forget to bring them a souvenir.

3. Work ahead

Allison Carter of Roundpeg in Indianapolis (and the inspiration for this post) took a two week trip to Egypt, and spent two months working ahead to prepare:

I knew what my baseline work was, what was owed to retainer clients, and what I could plan for. So every week, I wrote an extra blog post or two to hold in reserve, saved a few more tweets to be scheduled. That way, I wasn’t scrambling in the week before I left to finish two weeks worth of work.

Although that may seem extreme, working ahead for a few weeks (or a few months.) will keep you from stressing yourself out pre-vacation.

4. Give clients plenty of notice

In Allison’s case, she began notifying her clients of her absence a month in advance, then sent them a final reminder one week before with contact information for a fellow colleague. “This way,” she said, “there were no nasty surprises when a client realized I was gone, and the transition was smooth for them.”

5. Stay on top of your inbox

If your email inbox tends to fill up fast, you may want to log in and do a bit of cleaning while you’re away. Don’t respond to messages or start reading too thoroughly – just log in and quickly delete any junk you don’t need. If you spot anything important, flag it so you know what to tackle first upon your return.

The last step? Enjoy your vacation, and remember to truly unplug. This may feel unnatural and difficult, but remind yourself that this is your opportunity to unwind and invest in your personal health.

Which US City Has the Best Airport?

May 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Travelers today typically have a lot of options when planning their trips. Travel websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Trip Advisor (just to name a few) help customers find the best rates on airfare and hotels, not to mention the best restaurants and tourist attractions. So, when customers have options on where to catch their connecting flights, where do most travelers prefer to spend their time?

According to a recent report released by Travel Leaders Group, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta ranks as the top preferred airport if travelers have a connecting flight, and Chicago O’Hare ranked as the least preferred airport to connect through.

Chicago O'Hare Intenational Airport

Chicago O’Hare Intenational Airport (Photo credit: YoNoSoyTu)

However, Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare came in #1 and #2 respectively on the list of the best airports for business travel services. So if you’re a business traveler who missed your connection in Chicago O’Hare, at least you’ll have easy access to wifi and electrical outlets so you can keep busy while you wait for the next flight out.

What about if you’re on a family vacation? Orlando and Minneapolis/St. Paul are the top two preferred airports for travelers with kids. So if your family trip requires a long layover, consider routing your connecting flight through one of those locations.

Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul both topped the dining and amenities lists. So if you’re the type of traveler who enjoys an upscale restaurant experience or a quick massage at the airport spa, a long layover in Atlanta or Minneapolis could be the perfect way for you to get the most out of your travel experience.

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