Creative Ways to Manage Hotel Pet Peeves

November 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever stayed at a hotel and found they have a few issues you’re just not happy about? While you could always complain, the front desk staff can’t always fix your problems.

For instance, a poorly-placed outlet is not something the staff is going to be able to fix during your stay. So rather than register a complaint, carry a short extension cord in your luggage for just such an instance.

A room at the Hotel Burgenland in Eisenstadt

Hotel Burgenland in Eisenstadt

Smarter Travel has discussed how to work around your hotel pet peeves, so you can enjoy your next hotel stay a little more.

Here are five of their best pieces of advice.

  1. Loud hallways and rooms. If you’ve ever spent the night listening to the ice machine, or the elevator that dings every time it lands on your floor, or the stairwell door slam shut, we know your pain. Rather than wait to see if your room is loud, call ahead and ask for a quiet floor or for a room far away from an area where people are coming and going. Finally, pack a couple pairs of earplugs. Read more

Protect Your Identity and Your Technology While Traveling

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel and all that it entails makes for an environment ripe with opportunity for theft and scamming. Why? There’s lots of money involved and lots of personal information offered in the purchasing process.

A crowded airport is especially vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves while you're traveling.

A crowded airport is especially vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves while you’re traveling.

There are some simple ways to protect yourself, and, according to a CIO.com article, you can and should do everything you can to make sure you’re secure before you ever book your first ticket. That security starts with the travel site you choose to use.

Don’t believe those cyber vacation deals that seem too good to be true. Most of the time they are, and, worse yet, instead of a deal you might be getting a nightmare if you find out later what you thought was reputable turns out to be a scam. Stick with the big players with known reputations, read all the fine print, and watch your credit card statement like a hawk.

Don’t fool yourself by believing your mobile device is less susceptible. Charlie Abrahams, senior vice president of MarkMonitor, says the company spends a good deal of time scanning online app stores because, “there are a lot of apps there that are completely fake.”
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Hotel Safety Tips for Wifi

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Should you use the free wifi at your hotel? That depends on how sensitive the information is that you’re accessing online or you have on your computer. Even if you feel comfortable and safe and have good security measures in place, you still want to exercise caution when using it; avoid extremely sensitive tasks such as online banking or accessing sensitive business information.

Norton, a well-known antivirus provider, has several suggestions about Internet security within hotel rooms.

Chicago Hilton hotel room

Chicago Hilton hotel room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing you should do when checking into a hotel is to make sure that you choose the proper wifi network. Hackers are known to trick users looking for free wifi by creating a network that will trick them into using it. Don’t jump on something called “Free Wifi” for instance. Before you ever log on, call the front desk and ask for the name of the network.

Another solution Norton discusses is using a VPN or virtual private network, if you’re traveling for work. If your company has a VPN, logging onto it will give you the same security you enjoy while working from your office behind the security firewall.

Next, change your passwords frequently. You’ve probably heard this a million times; we all have. But it keeps being repeated because it’s great advice. Set up a system to remind yourself to change passwords every three months. Don’t use single words or names of family members or pets. Use a password management system like 1Password to generate long passwords with random letters, numbers, and special characters.

Also, avoid network sharing. Norton says to avoid situations where other computers are communicating directly with yours while you’re in a fairly unsecure location, such as a hotel.

These are also good tips for working in the local coffee shop, your hotel room, or anytime you’re on a public network. What are some other computer security tips you follow on the road? Share them with us in the comments.

Marriott Backs Down and Says it Won’t Block Wi-Fi… For Now

April 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

After previously announcing in January that they were going to block hotel guests’ personal wifi devices at conferences, Marriott has backed down, after facing a great deal of blowback from consumer groups, frequent guests, Google, Microsoft, and the news media.

The hotel giant was recently fined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for blocking wifi access in Nashville and their knuckles are apparently still stinging from the rap. They did file a petition to the FCC and do not plan to withdraw it, and have said they still wish to receive clarification on the rule.

English: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marriott says that they put these blocks in place to protect against cyberthreats.

But despite the hotel chain’s thirst for security, they have backed down and promised not to jam guests’ signals while at their hotel chain.

The main reason they seem to be backing off due to a resounding amount of public criticism, coming in the form of public comments, negative new articles, and vows from guests not to spend another dime at Marriott.

This is the type of fury that can only be roused by someone attempting to take wireless devices away from the American consumer and Marriott seems to have seen its mistake.

“To set the record straight it has never been nor will it ever be Marriott’s policy to limit our guests’ ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices. . . To be clear, this matter does not involve in any way Wi-Fi access in hotel guest rooms or lobby spaces,” Marriott said in a recent statement after the controversy grew so big that the New York Times ran a scathing article about the incidents.

What do you think? How important are your wifi devices to you when you travel?

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Boarding Pass

May 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Once you arrive at the airport and pick up your boarding pass (or you print it out at home before you ever leave), the first thing you look at is the gate number and seat assignment. For most people, that’s about it. But you’re missing a lot of information that is helpful, and sometimes crucial, to know. If you’ve never really paid attention to your boarding pass, here are a few things you may want to pay attention to.

1. TSA PreCheck Status

TSA PreCheck allows you to go through security lines faster, making your airport visit much easier. However, you need to become a member in order to use it. It can be a great time saver if you travel frequently. However, you’re not guaranteed PreCheck for every flight, since it’s not available in every airport. Look for the PreCheck symbol on your boarding pass to see if you’re eligible for the PreCheck service on your flight.

2. In-Flight Wifi

English: A boarding pass from British Airways,...

A boarding pass from British Airways, for a flight from Vancouver to London Heathrow. The green sticker allows use of “fast pass” security clearance and the brown pencil mark on the stub shows that the passenger has cleared security. The large portion is meant to be retained by the airline but in this case it wasn’t. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost all of American planes have built-in wifi for travelers. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s paid. Your boarding pass will let you know you if your plane has wifi access and whether it’s free or paid. Once you get the all clear from the flight deck, fire up your laptop or tablet, and visit a few of your favorite sites. Like our Facebook page, for example. . .

3. Flight Time

This may seem obvious, since you already know your flight time. But you need to know that flight times constantly change and may be different than the time you originally scheduled. This is also true of your gate.

Note: Depending on when you printed out your boarding pass, the information may have changed. The Departure/Arrival screens are going to have the most up-to-date information, but if you printed out your boarding pass at the airport, that’s a close second.

4. Bar Code

Your boarding pass now has a bar code instead instead of a magnetic strip. This change allowed you to print your boarding pass from home, saving you time at the airport.

5. Flight Number

You may actually be flying on an airline with a codeshare, even though you booked on a different airline. For example, if you booked a United flight to go to Europe, you may find you’re on a Lufthansa flight, which is United’s codeshare partner. Check your ticket for the flight number for codeshare information. If you have a higher-than-expected flight number, that usually means two airlines are sharing the same flight.

6. Seat Number and Status

The more perks you have with your chosen airline, the closer you are to the front of the plane. Being a preferred member of the loyalty club, upgrading your seat, and having priority check-in can all move you toward the front of the plane, which means you get to board early and be one of the first to depart. Anyone who’s ever been last on, last off knows how annoying it can be.

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Six Tips to Cut $100 From Your Hotel Budget

August 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Hotel Miramar 2

Hotel Miramar 2 (Photo credit: Son of Groucho)

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.

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Expect Faster Wifi on Airplanes

June 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a tech-savvy traveler, you likely have a wish list of technological advances you’d like to see in airplanes. Faster and/or free wifi, mobile device charging stations, free live television viewing, and more are all potential tech upgrades that many airlines are considering for their passengers.

Recently, the FCC took a step forward in improving wifi access for travelers. An air-to-ground wireless network is being proposed by Qualcomm, according to Bloomberg.com, and the FCC recently voted in favor of moving forward with the planning phase of this wireless network.

Sleeping on Turkish Airlines flight from Shanghai

Sleeping on Turkish Airlines flight from Shanghai to Istanbul in seat 3k (Photo credit: Toby Simkin)

So what does this mean for the average traveler? Nothing, yet. However, according to the article, the global market for in-flight technology and entertainment is estimated to grow to $3 billion in 2017. That’s a billion dollars in growth throughout the next four years, which likely means that not only will wifi be more readily available for passengers, it will be faster, and might even be free.

In a statement from Qualcomm, the broadband system they’re developing is designed to offer flyers an “in-flight broadband experience equivalent to what is available in their homes, offices, parks, cars, buses, and trains,” Qualcomm said.

Today’s travelers, especially the younger generation of road warriors, expect to be connected to the Internet at all times. Some people view flying time as a welcome respite from Internet connectivity, but that group of people is shrinking. Instead, travelers may want to put away their office email system during a flight, but instead they want to catch up on their Netflix queue. The proposed Internet system from Qualcomm could make this scenario a reality.

As of last year, just over 30 percent of airplanes were equipped for in-flight wifi, so there’s significant growth that needs to take place here. Some media pundits are worrying over the level of commitment to expect from each airline regarding the installation of in-flight internet services.

However, most airline industry experts agree that in time, wifi will have to be a standard offering on passenger aircraft if the airline wants to compete in the larger marketplace. Passengers who are traveling abroad or cross-country are expected to demand services like wifi and free live television viewing in the near future.

The next several years will bring a variety of technological advances into the airline industry. It will be interesting to see how Qualcomm’s proposed internet system will be developed and funded – and how quickly travelers begin using the new technological services being offered.

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Air Travelers Say Low Ticket Prices Trump Wifi

April 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A decade ago, the average traveler wouldn’t even dream of having access to wifi as a standard in-flight amenity. And let’s be honest — the first time we were able to log onto the internet from 30,000 feet above the earth was pretty exciting! However, now that the novelty of being able to update your Facebook page from the sky has tapered off, are the majority of travelers willing to pay a bit extra for this feature?

According to a December article on Mashable.com, the answer is no. In fact, according to a Qualtrics survey, only about 25% of the 1,100 consumers surveyed stated that in-flight amenities such as snacks, beverages, in-flight entertainment – and yes, wifi — are important to their overall travel experience. So what is important to travelers? The answer isn’t too surprising.

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines' Boeing

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines’ Boeing 737-800 fleet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Low ticket prices.

According to the article, Qualtrics CMO Dani Wanderer, said, “If airlines are really listening to their customers, cost is what matters most. Airlines can spare the bells and whistles of other perks, and bring the savings right to their customers.”

In fact, the same Qualtrics study found that for roughly 55% of consumers, lower fares aren’t just important — they are actually the single most important factor they consider when booking air travel. Taking into account the wide array of fees that many airlines are now charging, consumers are becoming even more price conscious than ever before.

So much so, that more and more consumers are using websites that aggregate flights from major airlines in order to shop the best deal, consumers are less likely to buy based on brand name and more likely to simply go with the best price.

While there is still a core group of travelers that enjoy added in-flight amenities — particularly on long flights — it appears that the majority of consumers value budget over added perks like wifi. We’d love to hear from you – are you willing to pay a bit extra per ticket for in-flight wifi, or is overall ticket price the most important factor?

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Personal In-Flight Entertainment via Mobile Devices

March 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

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.

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Five Ways to Stay Connected Overseas

February 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Carriers

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.

SIM Cards

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

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.

Rental phones

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.

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