U.S. Airlines, Airports Exploring Use of Self-Bag Drop

February 21, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Life is becoming more like The Jetsons all the time, especially around the airport. In a recent article, Travel Weekly told us about self-bag drop at some airports using machines by German vendor Materna.

While tighter security regulations have prevented unassisted self-bag drop machines in airports, U.S. airlines and airports are finally exploring the possibility of a rollout.

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

According to Stu Williams, Senior Vice President for Special Projects at the Denver Airport, nearly 200 Materna machines are being installed as part of a broader overhaul of the airport’s central Jeppesen Terminal. This means that by 2020 every bag drop location at the airport will enable flyers to self-check their baggage.

According to a study by SITA, another vendor of self-bag drop machines, 45% of airlines offer unassisted bag drop around the world. Passenger identity is typically agent-verified prior to accessing the bag drop machines for security purposes.

The machines can be time-savers, too. Once at the machines, passengers drop and weigh their bags, scan their bag tags and boarding passes, then they leave their bags to be routed to their flight, all without further agent contact. Some machines can accept payment for oversized baggage, and others offer biometric identity capabilities. Then the machine rolls to the baggage handlers who route it to the correct plane.

In addition to saving time, the machines provide substantial cost savings as agents can monitor up to 14 machines. But in the U.S., the TSA requires an agent manually verify passenger identification. The TSA has also pledged to speed up biometric development and released a road map for biometric expansion.

Several airlines like American, Alaska, Delta, and United, and airports in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami have begun using self-bag check as well. Meanwhile, at New York’s JFK Airport, JetBlue will begin testing biometric self-bag drop this month.

Will you use self-bag drop or are you a carry-on purist? Do you trust the technology to get your bag to your destination on time or do you want to hand it to a human being? Share your thoughts (or experiences) with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: hyolee2 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Robert & Mary Carey Spotlight: Santa Barbara, California

February 19, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We are pleased to publish this blog article from Robert & Mary Carey of the RMWorldTravel radio program. Robert and Mary will provide us monthly blog articles covering their different favorite travel destinations. This month, they’re taking a look at Santa Barbara, California.

On our national travel radio show, we regularly spotlight some of our favorite destinations around the U.S. — that are less traveled but offer terrific travel experiences. A recent focus was Santa Barbara, California.

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Blake BronstadSanta Barbara is a fun getaway destination that’s less than a 2-hour car ride north of Los Angeles (you can also take the train if preferred), and it’s one of those places that has something for everyone. It’s long been known as the American Riviera for its coastal location and stunning mountain views. Enjoy hiking, water sports and many other outdoor activities, beautiful Pacific beaches, art, culture, restaurants that range from fine dining to those hidden gems or ‘hole in the wall’ spots that offer great food at great value, night-life, and more. You’ll never run out of things to do in Santa Barbara.

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California at sunset, by Blake BronstadWe’ve visited Santa Barbara multiple times over the years and will be returning again next summer for a wedding — but whether you’re traveling alone or with friends or family, we encourage you to consider a trip to Santa Barbara (with your Travelpro Luggage of course). The world famous Stearns Wharf, which just happens to be California’s oldest working wharf, is a great place to spend the day riding bicycles, strolling, eating handmade ice cream, shopping or soaking in the California sunset in the evening. Kids will love the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, which has some really cool interactive exhibits explaining the sea creatures that live below the Wharf, and if you’re an angler, fishing is free on the Wharf! Just stop by one of the local bait and tackle shops and they’ll get you all set up. We love to ride bikes when we travel there as the topography makes it an excellent cycling city. Personally, we’re fans of the Surrey bikes because to us they are quintessential Santa Barbara. Four wheels, 3-4 passengers and loads of fun tooling around. Sometimes you just have to be a tourist and relax and enjoy. Although, rumor has it even the locals enjoy the Surreys!

A bit of a secret that many visitors don’t know about is the growing wine region in Santa Barbara. Napa and Sonoma have certainly made their mark in the wine world but Santa Barbara has some terrific vineyards that are reminiscent of the way Napa may have looked before it became so popular about 30-40 years ago. The Santa Ynez Valley has many experts claiming it may become the next big wine region nationally so we suggest going to enjoy it now if that’s the case. There are some award-winning wineries in this area and another must-see is Rancho Olivos for superb olive oil tastings and tours.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse Photo by Gabriela Herman-11-10-18Cultural activities like art shows, theatre, music festivals, craft shows, and wine and craft brewery events run year-round in Santa Barbara, and you can expect a Mediterranean-like climate with comfortable seasonal temperatures year round. If you are lucky enough to plan your trip in the month of March, try to time it around the largest Orchid Show in the U.S. The 74th Annual Santa Barbara Orchid Show runs March 17-19, 2019 and is one of the top orchid shows in the world.

Safe and Happy Travels!

Robert & Mary Carey, Hosts
America’s #1 Travel Radio Show
www.RMWorldTravel.com

1) Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California, by Blake Bronstad (Used with permission)
2) Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California at sunset, by Blake Bronstad (Used with permission)
3) Santa Barbara County Courthouse Photo by Gabriela Herman (Used with permission)

Hotel Insider Secrets for Better Prices and Service

February 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We share a lot of hotel insider secrets here on the Travelpro blog, but we always keep our eye out for new ones to share. We were rewarded last month when USA Today published its article, Hotel secrets: Insider tips for lower prices and better service.

Glenn Haussman is a podcaster with shows like “No Vacancy” and “Checking In With Anthony and Glenn” (co-hosted with Anthony Melchiorri from Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible.”) Glenn shared a few secrets with USA Today about how to find better prices and service.

One suggestion that was new to us was to understand who owns the hotel? Most hotels in a chain are rarely owned by the name on the front — Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott — but are instead owned by a franchisee. That means if you have a service complaint, you should direct it to the real owner, and not the brand’s customer service line. You can often find the name of the ownership company on a plaque near the front desk

Another hotel secret we’ve discussed before is watch out for resort fees. These are mandatory fees that are usually added on by the hotel after you’ve received your initial price quote, and go toward amenities like parking, pool, and workout facilities.

“Resort fees are a scourge,” Haussman told USA Today. “They create an antagonistic relationship with the customer, which is antithetical to everything the hospitality industry is supposed to be about.”

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OHThe best way around the resort fees, says Haussman, is to call the hotel ahead of time and negotiate your room rate directly — don’t go through the website, don’t go through the customer service (800) number. The best deals will be gotten by speaking with the hotel’s general manager. This is especially important if you’re not going to avail yourself of the different amenities the hotel offers, like a swimming pool or workout facility.

Haussman’s third big secret is to book your hotel room directly, not go through an online third-party booking site. The hotels have to pay those third-party sites as much as 20 percent of the hotel cost if they refer guests to them, so the hotels don’t want to pay it. That’s also why you don’t get loyalty points, and may even get less-than-preferential treatment from the hotels. The fee can be even higher for independent hotels than the big chain hotels.

So Haussman’s recommendation is that you should call the hotel directly to book your room (that’s also when you can negotiate the resort fees). Haussman says most hotels are happy to give you a 5 – 10 percent discount just to save on the referral fees.

Another secret we’d never heard, but it makes a lot of sense: If you want to switch hotel brands, even though you’ve had long loyalty with the old brand, is to ask for a status match with the new hotel. Whether you want to just test out the new hotel or want to switch completely, it’s often not necessary to start over with the new hotel.

Finally, always try to stay in the newer hotels. They have the faster Internet speeds and the larger TVs. Plus, you’re more likely to get the frequent traveler upgrades, since it often takes a year or more to get a new hotel’s business up to a profitable level. That means the upgrade rooms will sometimes sit empty, which means you can snag one fairly easily (or even for free if they won’t budge on the resort fees).

What hotel insider secrets do you have when you travel? Any that you’d like to share with us? Share them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Five Things You Should Do (and Not Do) at Hotel Checkout

February 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers are in and out of hotels so often, you have the hotel checkout routine down pat. On your last day, they slide the receipt under the door, and you walk out, confident that everything is fine and nothing needs your attention.

But that’s not always the case. USA Today recently shared some advice on what you should not do during hotel checkout, and we thought we’d share a few of these tips with you as well.

hotel management trainee working at the front desk at the Pearl Continental Hotel Rawalpindi 8. Be sure to check at the front desk during your hotel checkout to avoid surprise fees.First, be sure to double-check your bill. A lot of times, you can overlook an errant charge without realizing it. Maybe you negotiated no resort fees when you checked in, but they failed to note it on your account. Or maybe you’re being charged for something from the mini-bar even though you didn’t partake. Or maybe there was a breakfast charged to your room by mistake. Dispute the charges before you leave the building and get an updated copy of the bill.

Second, don’t leave anything behind Look for all electronics and chargers, make sure you’ve packed all medications and toiletries. And check behind your TV, in case you plugged in a Google Chromecast or USB cable. It helps to pack most of your items the night before and then you only have to deal with the things you need in the morning.

Leave a tip for the housekeeper. This is a customary part of every hotel stay, and you should leave between $2 and $5 for each night you’re there. Try to leave it each morning if you’re staying for more than a day, but if the housekeeper doesn’t take it on those mornings, then leave the sum total at the end.

Reserve a spot on the airport shuttle the night before If there’s a free airport shuttle, you can use it, but seats are often limited. Be sure to reserve your seat the night before so you don’t show up at the last minute only to find out you’re not going to make it. And be in the lobby 10 minutes before you’re supposed to leave; the shuttle might not stick around if you’re finishing up breakfast thinking you can stroll out at the last second.

Pay with a credit card, not a debit card. The danger of securing your stay with a debit card is that the hotel will often put a hold on $200 or more for “incidentals” — pay-per-view TV, minibar, etc. — when you check in. Anything you don’t use will be put back on your debit card after a few days. But this could put you in the red if other checks clear, like your utilities or mortgage/rent. Use a credit card for incidentals and to pay for your bill, if possible. If that’s not possible, give them a credit card to secure those incidentals, but pay with the debit card at the end of the stay to avoid the monetary hold.

What advice do you have for new hotel travelers? Anything they should avoid or watch out for, or things they absolutely must do? Tell us your (hotel) secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Hashoo Foundation (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How to Protect Yourself When Using Money Transfer Apps

February 5, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The ability to transfer money through mobile apps is growing in popularity, especially as more new services are created to make it possible. There are two popular apps that people are turning to, which means there’s also a growing opportunity for fraud and theft, so it’s important that you protect yourself.

Instead of people watching you pass along cash, there are hackers watching your transactions when you use these apps. Like any online transaction, there are inherent risks for someone to either take your money or find a way to access your account whenever they want. Taking a few precautions now can save you time, money and a big headache later.

Jason Glassberg, a cybersecurity expert and co-founder of Casaba Security recently told Travel and Leisure that individuals should “think of hackers like car thieves—they’re much more likely to steal a vehicle with the key in the ignition and windows down than one that’s locked and alarmed.”

Keeping your accounts secure on any of these peer-to-peer apps can be simple and keep pesky scammers away. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself on Venmo, PayPal, Cash, Apple Pay, and Google Wallets.

Use a complex password. Yeah, it’s tempting to want to use one password for several accounts. Simple passwords are easier to remember, but complex ones are more difficult to hack. Choose a unique password—one that’s long and confusing. We recommend using a password vault to generate and store passwords (vaults like 1Password and LastPass will even sync your passwords between devices), and then just retrieve them as you need them.

The generated passwords can be long multi-character creations like DJ!&a9m1jqz* or diminish-coffee-whale-nodule. You won’t remember them, but that’s what the password vault is for.

A woman holding a mobile phone, looking at her PayPal app. You need to protect yourself when you transfer money this way.Or if you need to, you can always create a long passphrase that you’ll easily remember, like ILeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco. It will be easier to crack than a random password, but it’s a lot harder than if you’d used passw0rd!.

Set up two-factor authentication. This is where, after you fill in your password, the app texts you a 6-digit code. Fill in that 6-digit code on the app, and you’re in. This way, if your ID and password are known to someone else, they still need your phone to finish the transaction. In other words, the app is “double-checking” to make sure it’s you.

Once you’ve started the transaction, double-check and triple-check to make sure the details are accurate. Accounts can be created to look almost identical to the one you’re looking for, so use caution. Remember: once you send a payment, the money leaves your account and cannot be returned. If necessary, call the person you’re sending the money to in order to confirm their receipt.

In order for these apps to send money, they need to be linked to a financial source. Your safest choice? Use a credit card and not a debit card. Credit cards offer a lot more protection than a bank’s debit card. For one thing, you could be responsible for all the missing funds with a debit card, but the credit card may charge you as much as $50 for fraudulent charges. Keep in mind that some credit cards may charge a processing fee to use it, but you’ll get peace of mind for as much as 1–3 percent.

The network you use is just as important as the card, password, and authentication process you choose. Financial transactions on public wifi networks (airports, restaurants, libraries) are at increased risk. You’re better off using a password protected wifi or your cellular network to protect yourself (turn off the wifi on your phone to make sure you’re only using the cellular network). And remember to update your apps and operating system because newer versions offer more protection than older software.

Turn on notifications for your finance apps and you’ll be alerted to any issues as soon as they happen. The more you know about your accounts, the better, and the sooner you can get them resolved. Even something as simple as receiving a text for every transaction can keep you updated on your account.

When you’re finished with your transaction, be sure to completely sign out of your account, don’t just close the app. By not signing out, your session remains active and someone can open the window and still be logged in.

Finally, one option is to have only one device strictly for payments. A separate smartphone will keep you safer since you’re not visiting other websites, playing games, or running other software. This solution is a bit more costly, but it offers the most protection. If you still have an old phone, you could use it for this purpose. Delete all the data, update operating systems and payment apps, and you’ve got a dedicated payment device.

Peer-to-peer payment apps are a great way to get money into the hands of someone quickly and conveniently, especially if you take a few simple safety precautions. How do you protect yourself and make sure your financial transactions are safe while still using your mobile phone to send and receive money? Share your tips, suggestions, and ideas on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Monito.com (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How Women Travelers Can Protect Themselves on the Road

January 29, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Women who frequently travel are often concerned about their personal safety and security, which can sometimes give them pause about where and when they travel.

In a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine, contributor Kim Albrecht suggests several ways in which women can keep themselves safe while traveling for business. We found a few we thought you should know right away, but highly recommend you read the entire article for the rest of the tips.

Albrecht, the Chief Marketing Officer at SAP Concur, reported that women are making up half the business traveling population and they continue to be on the move. Since women face more travel safety risks than their male counterparts, it should come as no surprise that 83 percent of women polled said they’ve experienced a safety issue or concern in the last year while traveling for work; only 53 percent of women always or sometimes report their experiences. Alarmingly, only 18 percent of corporate travel policies specifically address female safety needs.

Albrecht partnered with Kathy Leodler, CEO of security firm Rampart Group, and former FBI special agent, SWAT commander, and corporate security director, and together, they created a safety checklist sure to come in handy for female travelers.

Like most activities, Albrecht says, preparation is key.

Check your employer’s travel insurance program and learn what is covered. Self-employed? Not a problem. You can also buy private travel insurance. Hard copies and electronic copies of your travel insurance are important: keep both with you while traveling. Share the details of the insurance benefits with a trusted person.

Speaking of copies, make copies of your passport ID page to make it easier to file a report and get a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a trusted contact at home and carry another with you. Do the same with your trip itinerary in case your smartphone is lost or stolen. (It helps to keep a copy in the cloud too, so you can access it from, say, an Internet cafe or hotel business center.)

The Lemon Tree Hotel - Chandigarh. This hotel has a women-only floor for women travelersWell-known hotels are generally safer and some offer female-only floors. Ask before you book, and if necessary, switch up hotels to get a more secure one or one that offers a female-only floor. You might want to check out Maiden Voyage which offers a list of certified female-friendly hotels worldwide.

Book a flight with arrival time during daylight hours. This is especially important for international arrivals. And make sure you only take licensed taxis from the specified taxi loading zones at airports and hotels. If you prefer a ride sharing service, but would like to request a female driver, Uber and Lyft don’t offer that as an option, but there are several ride sharing services in specific cities.

The U.S. Department of State has important information for every country in the world including visa requirements, safety and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws and areas to avoid. Learn where the closest US embassy or consulate is located at your destination. There is an option to enroll your trip with the State Department in the event of an emergency, so be sure to do so if you’re traveling to a State Department hotspot.

Do you like to wander? Apps like TripIt can provide valuable local information such as safety scores for categories like women’s safety, physical harm, health and medical, theft, and more.

Modesty is a safe bet when it comes to clothing and wardrobe, said Albrecht. Leave jewelry at home, particularly expensive pieces to avoid standing out. Choose shoes that are comfortable and ones that don’t restrict mobility, should you need to move quickly.

Albrecht also suggests packing a decoy wallet with a small amount of cash and expired credit cards. You can wear a hidden money belt with actual cash and cards.

So whether you travel to the next city or across the globe, listen to your intuition: if you feel a bad vibe from somewhere or someone, listen to your gut instinct and remove yourself from the situation. And be sure to check out Albrecht’s article for other safety tips when you travel.

If you’re a woman and a frequent traveler, what do you do to keep yourself safe on your travels? Share your tips, suggestions, and stories on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Shankar S. (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Phoenix to Stop “Street Pricing” for Airport Restaurants

January 24, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Airplanes won’t be the only things that are going up in Arizona as the Phoenix city council repealed the “street pricing” policy that capped how much airport restaurants could charge.

Travelers passing through the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will likely see higher prices on food and beverages very soon, after city council members voted unanimously to repeal a decades-old provision that capped how much vendors can charge.

Currently, food and beverage vendors set their pricing at the price charged on the street plus 10 percent. However, since the policy change, HMS Host and SSP, the two companies that operate food services at the airport, have asked to be released from the agreement citing increased labor costs. An increase in the state’s minimum wage and recent union contract negotiations have been listed as culprits for the rising costs.

In fact, SSP took the matter a little further and requested the cap to street pricing plus 12 percent. In exchange, it offered to keep the price of kids’ menus the same, and offered a discount of 20 percent to airport employees.

A consultant’s report commissioned by Sky Harbor showed that vendors would still have a positive cash flow without a change in policy.

The Phoenix Airport can now charge more than "street + 10" pricing at their restaurants.Mayor Thelda Williams said the original policy was implemented when there was only one food-and-beverage management company at the airport. Williams indicated that vendors should set their own prices due to adequate competition. The council unanimously agreed.

Street pricing took effect in the 1990s to prevent price gouging, and in 2015, pricing was loosened to street pricing plus ten percent to account for the increased cost of doing business at the airport which included security, higher wages, health benefits for union employees and background checks.

Several other airports employ street pricing plus 10 percent, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago’s O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Washington DC’s Dulles Airport. Las Vegas was the only airport contacted by the Sky Harbor consultant that did not have a street-pricing policy.

New prices could take effect February 15, so if you’re traveling through Phoenix next year, prepare to pay slightly higher prices. The vendors are required to give new pricing menus to the airport by January 15 and will be allowed to implement the increased prices between February 15 and July 15.

The ordinance applies to food and beverage vendors; a separate ordinance concerning retailers would have to be proposed to change prices.

What do you think about this new pricing schedule? Do you think other airports will follow suit? And do airport food prices make you think twice about buying food in airports? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Cygnusloop99 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Robert & Mary Carey Spotlight: Albuquerque, New Mexico

January 22, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We are pleased to publish this blog article from Robert & Mary Carey of the RMWorldTravel radio program. Robert and Mary will provide us monthly blog articles covering their different favorite travel destinations. This month, they’re taking a look at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

How many American cities can you think of that have a four-season climate but the seasons are all fairly mild? Not too many, but Albuquerque, New Mexico is one of them! The sun shines more than 300 days out of the year on average in Albuquerque with low humidity which helps keep the winters mild. Visitors are able to enjoy outdoor activities year-round in this capital city.

Photo of Albuquerque by Ron Berhmann (provided by Robert & Mary Carey)Perhaps if you haven’t yet visited, you’ve seen the many photographs of the hot air balloons in the sky over Albuquerque. Their annual Balloon Fiesta held every October is a site to behold from the air or the ground as it features hundreds of hot air balloons in the air offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

Albuquerque is one of those destinations that captures the heart and leaves an indelible image in the traveler’s mind. The sunrises and sunsets appear like paintings across the sky with colors so vivid, you almost can’t believe they’re real. If hot air ballooning isn’t your thing, you can still get those great sunset and city views with the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway which climbs to the 10,000-foot peak of the Sandia Mountains. If you’re a skiing enthusiast, most travelers are surprised to learn that you can ski or snowboard in fresh snow during the winter season at multiple locations surrounding Albuquerque.

For golfers, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine have ranked several Albuquerque courses among the best in the country. With backdrops of sleepy volcanoes, rocky mountain peaks and the Rio Grande, there aren’t too many other areas in the U.S. that can compete with the views. Another positive is you’ll find golf is quite affordable in the Southwest compared to other areas in the country.

2018 has been good to Albuquerque, as the city has been named “50 Best Places to Travel in 2018” by Travel + Leisure, “One of the Best Small Cities” by National Geographic Traveler, and “Top-10 Most Affordable Vacation Destination” by Smart Asset. From the city’s Spanish roots and diverse native cultures, flavorful foods, engaging museums and an abundance of outdoor adventures available year round — plus we can’t forget its popularity for hot air ballooning — Albuquerque gives visitors an authentic experience of the Southwestern United States.

So pack your Travelpro, and think Albuquerque, as we highly recommend this great southwest city and be prepared for a ‘little’ chile in your food! Safe and Happy Travels!

Robert & Mary Carey, Hosts
America’s #1 Travel Radio Show
www.RMWorldTravel.com

Photo of Albuquerque, NM by Ron Berhmann (provided by Robert & Mary Carey)

Delta and Lyft Have Combined to Earn Delta Points on Lyft Rides

January 15, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a travel mileage junkie on the lookout for a new way to earn Delta miles, hitch a ride with Lyft. Delta Airlines recently announced a partnership with the ride sharing company that lets travelers earn miles just by using the service. Members can earn miles for every Lyft ride, and for a limited time, earn bonus miles during rides to and from the airport.

“We’re thinking about our customers’ whole travel experience and it’s important that Delta customers are taken care of not just in the air, but on the ground,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s Vice President – Customer Engagement & Loyalty.

All SkyMiles members are eligible, but if you’re not a SkyMiles member yet, but frequently take Lyft, sign up for Delta’s program. Just remember that names must match on both accounts, so keep that in mind when you register.
There are several Lyft benefits offered to SkyMiles members including:

  • One mile for every dollar spent on all rides (excluding taxes and tolls).
  • For a limited time, get two bonus miles per $1 spent on Lyft rides to or from the airport.
  • New riders get two $10 Lyft ride credits.
  • All Lyft rides are all eligible to earn miles including Lyft Line, Classic, Plus, and Premier.

Delta and Lyft have teamed up to provide Delta loyalty miles to Lyft riders.Earning miles is exclusively for SkyMiles Members who have active linked accounts at the time the ride is completed, which means you can’t get credit for past rides. So be sure to register and connect your two accounts before your next trip. Finally, if you and several co-workers or family members ride together, only the Lyft rider who requested the ride can earn miles, so you’ll have to fight it out with anyone else who wants the miles.

This is not the first partnership Delta has made with other travel service companies. In November 2016, they partnered with Airbnb to award extra miles to SkyMiles members who stayed in an Airbnb property. Delta also partnered with an innovative biometric identity verification platform, CLEAR, which allows SkyMiles members a discount on the highly coveted opportunity to expedite TSA security processes.

Are you a Delta or Lyft account holder? Will an arrangement like this inspire you to join one or the other program? Have you seen it in action already? Share your stories with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Photo provided by Delta Airlines

6 Things to Do Before Booking a Hotel

January 10, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel offers many choices and demands many decisions and you want to make the ones that give you the most for your money. On any trip, your hotel choice is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make.

The quality of the accommodations, amenities, and freebies are just a few of the factors that will affect your decision. The wrong or right choice can mean the difference between a memorable trip and a miserable one.

The Ellis Hotel, formerly the Winecoff Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia. Make sure to follow these important steps when booking a hotel.

The Ellis Hotel, formerly the Winecoff Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia.

A recent Smart Traveler article reminded us of some important factors to consider if you want to ensure your next trip is one worth remembering, not one you’d rather forget.

First, check the EXACT location of the hotel. Use Google Street view or Bing’s Bird’s Eye and get a look around. Make sure the hotel is, say, near the beach (like they said), has the great views they promised, or isn’t stuck right on a busy street that makes walking impossible. Doing this can help you avoid a hotel near the interstate or road construction.

Check to see if the hotel has any airport shuttles. You can save yourself time and frustration with a complimentary shuttle. Taxis and ride sharing can get expensive, so taking an airport shuttle to the hotel can save a few bucks. Just remember to tip your driver.

Check parking availability and cost. Parking on hotel property can add $10 to $35 or more per day. No parking at the hotel? The cost for off-site parking will often be significantly higher, and the inconvenience of walking to and from the off-site lot is higher, too. Weigh the costs between paid parking and ride sharing before you commit.

Do they have free or fee Internet? There’s no guarantee that a hotel offers free wifi; there could be a daily charge for it. You could also be charged per device, so connecting a laptop and phone can gobble up any savings. The more expensive hotels typically charge for their wifi while the less expensive hotels don’t. So either figure out how to use the mobile hotspot feature on your cell phone, or figure out whether you want to spend $10 – $20 per day on Internet access.

Do they have a rewards program? Loyalty programs are usually free and often provide great rewards. Ideally, you’d sign up before you make your reservations because members often get discounted prices, earlier check-in, later check-out, and other perks, but you can sign up once you check in. Just remember to do it before you check out so you can get the points. Some programs even give complimentary wifi and upgraded rooms.

Of course, you often have to book directly through the hotel rather than through the discount comparison sites or the conference websites to get those points. (Be sure to check with the individual hotel before you make the reservations just to make sure. Call them directly, don’t call the 800 number, because they don’t always have the best information.)

Are you a hotel travel veteran? What are some of your recommendations for hotel rookies and newbies? Tell us some of your recommendations and secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Eoghanacht (WIkimedia Commons, Creative Commons 0/Public Domain)

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