Business Travelers Increasingly Use Lyft Ride-Sharing Services

September 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It used to be that, when you needed to get across town or to the airport, a loud whistle or the wave of an arm would bring a car to your feet. There was a time when a cab was the sole form of a solo ride for pedestrians.

Then Uber hit the streets, which began to threaten the public transportation mainstay; coming in from the back of the pack was Lyft. These days, the tried-and-true method has been overtaken by a sleeker, newer model, and ground transportation is becoming a neck-and-neck race between two contenders. And it’s the taxis that may be left out in the cold.

Lyft usage is increasing among business travelersAccording to USA Today, Certify, a business expense tracking company, reported that Lyft is seeing more growth than Uber and the “old-fashioned” taxi.

Certify examined more than 10 million travel receipts and expenses from North America, and found an eight percent increase in market share for Lyft in the second quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, Uber and taxis declined three percent and five percent respectively.

Uber still remains king of ride-hailing with nearly three-quarters of the market (74 percent), having a significant lead over Lyft, clocking a mere 19 percent. Cabs trail significantly with their less than double-digit share of 7 percent.

Ride-hailing services are on the move, according to Certify. The company, which began tracking the market in 2014, reported that Uber had 26 percent of transportation expenses and taxis dominated with 74 percent. At that time, Lyft had less than one percent of market share.

Talk about a comeback.

Uber can also claim the title of costliest, as business travelers spent $26 per Uber ride on average and $22.37 for Lyft.

At this rate, it’s possible for Lyft to overtake Uber in a dramatic finish, although it might take a few more years. Only time will tell as the race continues for the 2018 ground transportation championship. While not as fast as NASCAR, at least the courses are more than just left turns.

Technology also helps those business travelers who drive themselves around and might otherwise spend hours looking for parking. Business travelers are increasingly using apps like SpotHero for the much-coveted parking space, according to USA Today. In fact, the use of SpotHero grew 216 percent from Q2 2017 to Q2 2018. This may be something I have to try when I’m driving around Miami.

Business travelers fueled up with driving services too. According to another USA Today article, GrubHub reported 35 percent of all food deliveries last quarter, a 10 percent drop from 2017. Second place went to Uber Eats with an 11 percent increase (25 percent of market share) and DoorDash came in third with 20 percent. Lagging behind with 11 percent was Postmates.

DoorDash dominated in the amount spent for food delivery though. On average, a DoorDash customer spent $75.21. Meanwhile Uber Eats customers paid less than half of that with transactions averaging $34.30.

Business travelers, do you use ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber? Or do you stick with the tried-and-true taxis and car services? How about your food delivery? Tell us your favorite methods of travel and food delivery on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

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

Lights Out for These Hotel Mattress Myths

September 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, the hotel bed. Sometimes it’s a real crap shoot as to whether you find a comfortable bed like you’ve got at home, or something that should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. If you don’t sleep well while you’re traveling, it may not just be that you’re away from home. It may be that your bed is, well, terrible. Or at least, not very comfortable.

While hotels advertise that their beds will give you “sweet dreams” and dispel any idea of counting sheep, not all guests would support those claims.

According to published reports in a USA Today article, two recent surveys say guests aren’t buying the idea of amazing beds.

The article asserts that hotel beds are at best, just plain old average.

Eighty-one percent of travelers say the “single-most important feature” in a hotel room is the bed, according to a hotel guest survey by MattressAdvisor.com. With plenty of guests complaining about poor sleep, not enough sleep, and restless sleep, what’s a weary traveler to do?

First, be picky about where you stay. Choose wisely.

Interestingly, all major US hotel chains source their mattresses from four companies, according to the article. Serta, Simmons, and Sealy scored just 74 out of a possible 100 on Consumer Reports. The unrated Jamison/Solstice is the fourth company.

In other words, the highly touted Marriott Bed is manufactured by the same people who supply mattresses to Motel 6.

Simply said, most beds are not a “nightmare” but they’re also not “dreamy.” They are, plain and simple, “unremarkable”.

The highest-rated property for mattresses is the Holiday Inn Report Panama City Beach. Fabulous beach, great beds.

Don't fall for the hotel mattress hype. Photo of a hotel bed with pillows and some art on the wall.Consider the wakeful—and woeful—tale of Jay Marose, writer/publicist and recent guest of a Los Angeles chain hotel.

The feather bed was so worn, it was like sleeping on a bed of nails,” he said in the USA Today article. “There was no duvet cover. There were four flat sheets in a bedding origami that had nothing to do with comfort, just picture taking. I left early.”

The USA Today reporter, Christopher Elliott, added his own details of nightmarish stays.

I feel his pain. I’m on the road 365 days a year, so I sleep – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, I don’t sleep – on a lot of beds. I’ve stayed at two of the top-rated sleep hotels, the West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Indiana (No. 2), and the Hotel Emma in San Antonio (No. 8), and I slept well in both of them.

But I’ve also stayed in some really nice places – you know, the kind that charge a mandatory $30-a-night ‘resort fee’ on top of their exorbitant room rate – and felt as if I was sleeping on a stone slab.

So let’s bust these hotel bed myths.

Fact: Not all hotel beds are super-premium. Therefore, people do not necessarily sleep better in them.

Fact: The hype about hotel beds is simply a marketing concept. So, no need to purchase one for your very own. You can get one that’s just as good from the regular mattress store.

Fact: Hotel mattresses are fairly generic and average. They are not proprietary and specially made for the hotel. Remember, there are only four sources of mattresses for all hotels.

So, what’s a weary traveler to do?

Learn how to spot a poor mattress. You probably already know what makes up a poor mattress, but maybe didn’t realize it. Does it sag? Can you sit on the edge comfortably?

Harrison Doan, director of analytics at Saatva, a mattress company, told USA Today:

“Checking these things can give you an idea of the mattress quality as well as the quality of sleep you can expect from it,” he said. “Is the stitching clean and consistent? Is the padding on the top of the mattress thick enough to make a difference or just a thin layer thrown on to look nice?”

You can also improve your sleep by making a few room adjustments. The first thing Paul Bromen, publisher of Uponamattress.com suggests is chilling. No, not you. Your room. Turning down the air conditioner a few degrees.

Next, he says bring your own pillow (although we don’t recommend it if you’re flying and only taking a carry-on bag). And be sure to bring a little masking tape to cover up any LEDs scattered around your room.

Bottom line: Don’t believe the hype about a hotel’s mattresses. Unless they tell you they have a memory foam mattress or some exotic mattress handmade by scientists and artisans, don’t fall for it. A hotel mattress is a hotel mattress. Stay at a hotel for the overall experience, not the mattress.

What has been your experience with hotel mattresses and sleeping experiences? Where did you get your best night’s sleep on the road? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Olichel (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Business Travel is Best Perk for Millennial Professionals

September 6, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you employ a lot of Millennials — the generation between ages 19 and 38 — you may appreciate knowing they consider business travel to be a major perk, and they actually enjoy it. So much, in fact, that many of them will often create reasons to take a trip.

(This may be welcome news to the seasoned travel veterans who are just as happy to stay home.)

Approximately 75 percent of young professionals describe business travel as a serious bonus to their work, with 65 percent considering it to be a status symbol, according to a new study commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Millennials like business travel enough that it's a major perk for them.Business travelers between 23 and 35 shared positive responses toward travel and more than half admitted creating a reason to travel for work. Globetrotting is such a perk that 39 percent say they would refuse a job offer if travel wasn’t required.

One of the perks, according to the young professionals is making friends. In fact, 75 percent have widened their circle of friends. Another is getting more accomplished while meeting in person. Eighty-one percent achieve more while face-to-face.

However, not all is rosy for the young globetrotters. The study found travelers face several issues:

  • Sixty-five percent admitted packing workout gear but not using it. Wanting to work out and doing so on a business trip were two different things. Moreover, 44 percent gained weight on their business trips.
  • Another wardrobe “malfunction” was packing in general: 36 percent are stressed by the idea of packing for every situation. (Hint: Don’t do that. Plan your wardrobe and events ahead.)
  • Writing up expense reports was another issue. Forty-three percent of travelers ended up owing their company money because they didn’t understand what they could expense.
  • The anticipation of pending business travel caused stress for thirty-eight percent of the professionals. Weekends were filled with dread.

Enjoying new places on the company’s tab is great, so great that 69 percent wish they could extend their trip for a little leisure trip. However, nearly half of them feel guilty about doing it, and worry it makes a bad impression on senior leadership.

Since Millennials make up such a large part of business travelers these days, Hilton Hotels has tried to help young professionals based on these findings.

For example, Hilton guests can now use the chain’s in-room wellness concept and in-room delivery service as a means to avoid disruption of fitness routines. They also offer a variety of health-conscious menu packages.

They also offer packing advice for a week’s worth of travel: they call it the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Rule which means packing one hat, two pairs of shoes, three pairs of pants/skirts, four shirts, five pairs of socks, and six pairs of underwear. Also, keeping clothes in the same color palette can keep everything simple and coordinated. With this combination, you can travel for at least 10 – 12 days, although you may need to do some laundry while you’re away.

What about you, Millennials? What has been your business travel experience? Do you work out, or take bleisure time, or have issues with your expense reports? Share your concerns and stories with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Author unknown (PXHere.com, Creative Commons 0/Public Domain)

Here Are the Top Reasons Travel Insurance Claims Are Delayed or Denied

September 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating and worrisome. Whether it’s an auto claim, a homeowner claim, or medical claim, the insured is often told a claim is denied or delayed without explanation. Travel insurance is no different. A simple misstep can cause a claim to be delayed or even denied despite the best of intentions.

InsureMyTrip, a travel insurance aggregator, recently published a list of the top reasons claims are delayed or denied.

One reason for a delay or denial is pretty basic, and that’s whether your policy covered this type of claim. Before you sign up for your travel insurance, read the fine print. Many of those crucial details about what you’re getting coverage for are outlined in the fine print. Check your terms and conditions because every policy is worded differently.

You should get travel insurance for trips like cruises and business trips.Not all flight delays qualify for a claim. For example, a delay needs to be three hours or more in order to qualify. So, if your flight is delayed two hours and 59 minutes, your claim will, in all likelihood, be denied.

Has your trip been canceled due to weather? Many vacationers discover they are not covered because the storm’s impact is not sufficient enough to warrant cancellation. Another common reason is that people waited too long to purchase their policy and bought it right before the trip began.

Typically an airline or cruise company has to cease service due to the weather in order for basic coverage to kick in. That means a flight must be grounded, or your resort must be badly damaged and unable to provide service.

Hurricane season typically sees a large spike in claims. If you’re worried about hurricanes, look at the specific ‘hurricane-related’ coverage that your provider offers, and ask questions to make sure you’re covered. A policy review by a travel insurance expert will help you understand what kind of coverage you’re getting, so have one examine your policy prior to buying it.

Illness may be another reason for a canceled trip and filed claim. But if you’re too sick to do anything, yet you don’t seek medical attention, your claim will be denied. How else can you prove you were ill? Insurance companies want proof, and without it, the chances of your claim being approved are slim to none. Not sure if you can make the trip? Get some guidance from the policy holder before making your travel decision.

Documentation is also vital for filing a claim. Your travel insurance company has a process, and will need documentation that you followed that process. The more you do, the less likely you will experience a delay or denial. Seeking treatment prior to returning home and saving all medical documentation is critical to proving both your expense, and the fact that an event occurred. Anything you can do to get an independent, qualified party to document your case will help you during your claim, including additional treatment when you return.

Do you have a pre-existing condition? Request a plan that includes pre-existing medical issue waiver. If you’re not sure, speak to a travel insurance professional about the plan that’s right for you.

Generally speaking, InsureMyTrip suggests following a few simple steps to avoid delayed or denied claims

  • Purchase travel insurance as early as possible to increase eligibility and ensure the trip cost is accurate.
  • Understand your policy before leaving.
  • Have your paperwork in hand before you return home, including claims-related medical papers, police reports, etc.
  • Expect processing delays with your claim following major travel events such as hurricanes.

What has been your experience with travel insurance claims? Any tips or pointers you’d like to share with your fellow travelers? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Brendaconway94 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Which Travel Vaccinations Do You Need for International Trips?

August 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Our bodies are homebodies. While you may like the idea of visiting exotic foreign destinations and experiencing all the culture has to offer, our bodies don’t embrace it. But if you get travel vaccinations before you embark on this dream trip, your body won’t have to worry about “what’s in the water,” and you won’t come home with a souvenir you never wanted.

Some courses of these vaccines were administered when you were a child and you’re covered for life. Others require a booster or must be administered over a period of weeks or months prior to departure, so have a conversation with your travel agent and doctor as soon as you determine your itinerary.

Zona Sur area of La Paz, Bolivia. You need travel vaccinations if you visit Central or South America.

Zona Sur area of La Paz, Bolivia

Here’s a list of some of the vaccinations readily available either through your doctor’s office or county health department (borrowed from Matt Karsten over at Expert Vagabond). You may be required to show proof of vaccination in order to enter the destination of your choice, so do your homework as part of your preparations. If you’re afraid of needles, don’t despair. Some vaccinations can be administered in pill form. Otherwise, close your eyes and dream of your destination.

TDaP (Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis): Yes, you were vaccinated for this when you were a baby, but if you’re going out of the country it’s a good idea to get a booster of this combo in order to avoid tetanospasmin, a deadly bacterial toxin found in the soil and animal excrement. Any open wound you may have exposes you to this possibility, and if left untreated, tetanus can be fatal. Diptheria and pertussis are also bacterial diseases which are prevented with the vaccine.
Recommended: All countries, regardless of where you’re going.

Typhoid Fever: This is another deadly disease spread that’s caused by animal excrement contaminating the water supply. It’s 100 percent fatal.
Recommended: Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Pacific Islands

Malaria: Think of how many times over the course of the summer you’ve swatted at a mosquito without wondering if the insect was a female carrying one of four strains of this parasite infection. While some may dispute whether travelers really need to get this vaccine, talk with anyone who has ever had malaria, and they’ll advise you to follow the protocol.
Recommended: Africa, South America, parts of the Middle East and Asia

Japanese Encephalitis: Never heard of it? Neither had we, but it too is spread through mosquitoes in rural farming areas. If you are traveling during monsoon season to the Far East and Southeast Asia, this is one vaccination you should seriously consider.
Recommended: Asia and Southeast Asia

Cholera: This is one of the cheapest vaccines available and may save you from wasting valuable adventure time in the bathroom. It’s spread by consuming food or water contaminated with feces of an infected person.
Recommended: Africa, Southeast Asia, and Haiti

Are you headed on any international trips? Or have you been on any lately? What kinds of vaccinations did you get? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Matthew Straubmuller (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

American Travelers Really Want Hotel Loyalty Points

July 24, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

How far would you go to earn loyalty points? According to a surprising study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, some travelers are willing to go farther than you might expect.

American business travelers top the list (47 percent of all respondents) of those willing to risk a certain level of personal safety in order to earn loyalty points from their overnight stay. If given the choice to stay at a property where they’re not a loyalty member or stay where they are, business travelers will choose the loyalty program benefits over their personal safety.

But before you get images of people staying in rough neighborhoods for the sake of a few points, let’s define the sense of “feeling unsafe” most respondents described. Most wouldn’t put themselves in physical danger, but they would be willing to put up with disruptive fellow guests that made them feel uncomfortable. Others (44 percent) said they would disregard their fear of someone breaking into their room so they could earn more points.

The hotel front desk at the JW Marriott in New Orleans, LA. This is where you ask for your hotel upgrade.

The hotel front desk at the JW Marriott in New Orleans, LA.

Among those traveling for business internationally (37 percent), the personal safety concern was less physical. They were concerned their privacy would be breached by their information being given out without their knowledge or someone discovering their room number or procuring a key.

Many respondents also indicated they believed staying on higher floors of a hotel to be safer. Thirty-two percent said they avoid staying on the ground floor if at all possible.

Bottom line? No amount of loyalty points is worth risking your personal safety for. Your work and your life are too important, so don’t take unnecessary risks. Be smart, and don’t make unwise choices. There are other ways to get points!

How far will you go to earn more loyalty points? Where do you draw the line? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Prayitno Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

5 Ways to Save Money on a Business Trip

July 3, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

You may not have a healthy travel budget for your business trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat fast food and stay at a cheap budget hotel in a dangerous neighborhood. We’ve compiled a list of tips for saving money that will still provide you with a pleasant, productive, and safe experience that will make you the hero with your finance department.

First, think outside the hotel box. We’re not suggesting you hit up friends for their spare bed or sleep at a hostel, but Airbnb might be a better option than the expensive conference hotel downtown because it can provide you some cost-saving amenities. Sometimes you can rent an entire house or apartment with Airbnb for the price of a luxury hotel in the heart of the business district. If you’re traveling with several colleagues, a multi-bedroom apartment or house might cut the accommodations line item down to a fraction of the cost of everyone having their own hotel room.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara California. This would be a nice place for a business trip.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

These properties often not only have spaces for lounging or working, most come equipped with a kitchen, which leads us to tip number 2. A kitchen will allow you to stock up on some grocery basics and eat in for breakfast and maybe even dinner a few nights. Conducting a business meeting at the property might also provide the right private atmosphere for a day of negotiations, and you could have food delivered and eat without wasting time going out.

If an Airbnb property isn’t an option, consider booking a suite at a hotel. The price of a suite might be $50 more per night, but by using the in-room mini fridge or small kitchenette with a two-burner stovetop, you’ll be ahead in the long run when you add up the savings to your food per diem because you dine in for breakfast and/or dinner. A home-cooked meal might not be as glamorous as a nice restaurant, but knowing you’ve saved time and money will allow you to relax and unwind after a long day. (And you can always spend your per diem dollars on other things, like a bottle of wine and a whole pint of ice cream.)

When you’re searching for airfares, be flexible with your departure and arrival dates. Compare the cost of flying in on a Saturday or flying home on a Sunday to regular Monday through Friday travel. Traveling outside the normal work week will often net you significant savings. Flying the red eye going home might be worth it if you can negotiate some comp time to sleep in. (But don’t sacrifice your health and well-being for the sake of saving a few dollars.)

Finally, see if there’s a way to avoid renting a car during your trip. Not only is car rental $50 a day or more, you’ll pay upwards of $30 or more every time you park, especially in big cities such as Chicago, Miami, and New York. Uber and Lyft might seem expensive, but they could end up being cost effective when you do the math — you could get to your conference and back for $40, as compared to car rental, day parking, and hotel overnight parking.

You might even find you can walk to a meeting or dinner with clients, which is a good way to get some exercise while you’re traveling.

How do you save money on a business trip? Where can you cut costs without sacrificing comfort? Leave us a comment or share your ideas on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Scott Cutler, an Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Chain Hotels vs B&Bs vs Airbnb

June 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When considering your lodging accommodation options, what’s most important to you? Do you want a standard cookie cutter room that will be the same(ish) wherever you go? Or do you want to experience something new and unique each time you travel?

If you’ve only ever stayed in hotels, why? If you’re a fan of Airbnb or independent bed and breakfast operations, what appeals to you about them? Or if you love to stay in cozy little B&Bs, what draws you to them?

These are some good questions to ask yourself as you think through your itinerary each trip. There are some good reasons to stay at any of these three options, and a few downsides as well.

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OHHotels provide a consistent experience, they’re located close to major attractions or downtown business districts, and you can count on them being clean and maintained for you during your stay. You’re also rewarded with loyalty points and other benefits like upgrades for frequent stays.

Of course, if you’re looking for an individual, unique experience, hotels won’t give that to you. They’re there for convenience and/or price. It’s a place to sleep, or to be pampered if you’re staying at a luxury vacation hotel, but you’re still just one of hundreds of guests.

If you want to investigate a specific part of a city, live like the locals, have more room to relax, and cook some of your own meals, Airbnb offers many options.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara California; they have a new tool for business travelers.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

Typically, you have a more personal experience, possibly interacting with the owner of the property who may also live nearby. You’re often nestled in a residential neighborhood, and you can discover local finds that are off the beaten path from the heavily frequented tourist areas. You can also save money on your trip by eating in. In order to compete with chain hotels, Airbnb is now rewarding loyalty as well.

On the downside, you don’t always get as much privacy, as some Airbnb rooms are just a bedroom in someone’s house or apartment. That’s fine if you’re going to be out for most of the day, and if you don’t mind bunking with a stranger, but some people don’t like the idea. (If that’s you, keep in mind that you can specify a private house or private apartment on the website; you won’t be surprised with a roommate when you book your Airbnb.)

Long before Airbnb, independent bed and breakfasts provided a similar experience for travelers seeking something unique.

When you book your stay at a bed and breakfast, you may have all the benefits of a hotel—clean, maintained rooms—but you also get the chance to interact with a smaller group of guests and the owner/operator, who may be cooking your meals and can provide expert knowledge about the area’s sites and history. In fact, if you love history, a B&B may be your best bet, as many of them are originally historic homes that have been converted into a place to visit and relax.

But on the downside, it’s like staying in a small hotel. You may have your own bathroom or you may end up sharing one with other guests. If you need your privacy and space, be sure to check out the B&B’s website and room type before you commit.

What’s your lodging preference when you travel? What makes it your favorite? What option do you like the least? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Scott Cutler, an Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Mysterious Hotel Fees Explained

May 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When checking out of a hotel, do you ever really examine the bill that’s slipped under your door before you actually leave the premises? If not, you could be paying more than you expected for your room, thanks to some hidden fees that were tacked on to your bill but didn’t show up on the website when you booked it.

The use of fees isn’t uncommon in the hotel industry. It allows them a certain “sleight of hand” in advertising, claiming a certain room price and not disclosing what will be tacked on when you check out. This isn’t illegal so much as one of those unspoken things that just sort of happen but no one talks about.

So let’s talk about it! Here are some explanations for commonly added fees.

Let’s start with the resort fee. Basically, this allows a hotel to charge travelers for specific amenities that are part of the hotel’s property. It might include access to the business center, the fitness center, or newspaper delivery. It can vary from property to property, with some charging a flat fee while others tack on a percentage based on your room rate. Another little-known fee can be added for lawn maintenance called a groundskeeping fee. You value that there aren’t any weeds in the grass and that the lawn is edged, don’t you? Well, someone’s got to pay for that.

Some Fees are Negotiable

According to the LA Times, these fees aren’t mandated by law, nor have they been “levied by a legitimate taxing organization.” That’s good news for you because it means you can contest them before you ever check in and negotiate your way to a rate you can live with.

However, this is easier said than done.

Hotel lobby. This is the place to negotiate your hotel fees *before* you check inOne strategy for getting out of a resort fee is to know what your benefits are as a member of that hotel’s loyalty program. For example, a hotel can’t charge you for wifi if it’s included as an amenity in your loyalty membership. According to The Points Guy, Nick Ewen, fees of this nature can be waived at certain properties in the Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood chains.

If the hotel you’re staying at doesn’t have a loyalty program, you can try to negotiate the resort fee by telling them you don’t want to pay for amenities, such as the pool or the gym, you don’t plan to use. If you don’t do this at check-in, though, you’re going to have a hard time getting waived when you check out.

And don’t try to be tricky: Don’t negotiate and then surreptitiously use them anyway. (That doesn’t work with the pet fee, and it won’t work in this case. Hotels have eyes everywhere.)

Another strange, annoying fee is the occupancy tax. This one is harder to dispute because local municipalities and some state governments have legislated these for the benefit of their city and state. Don’t confuse these with state and local taxes; they’re different. And, on top of both of these, some states and cities charge a bed tax, also known as a hotel unit fee.

For example, in New York City, the New York State Department of Taxation requires hotels in the Big Apple to charge $1.50 per day as a hotel unit fee. Houston charges 17 percent, Palm Springs charges 13.5 percent, and in San Francisco, the charge is 14 percent plus and additional 1 to 1.5 percent in certain tourism improvement districts.

Don’t let late-night snacking at the mini bar end up as an additional charge on your bill. On top of the overpriced item you bought on a whim, you may be charged a restocking fee Ask ahead of time if you plan to “take advantage” of this particular amenity, or stock up on snacks at a local convenience store and save yourself the remorse. (And don’t try to replace it on your own. Many of these minibars have sensors to tell if an item has been moved, and that’s how they know to charge you.)

Be aware that some hotels may charge what they call a “service charge” that ensures the staff are appropriately tipped for making your bed, vacuuming, and leaving you clean towels. If you plan to tip the staff yourself, discuss this with management, not the front desk staff, upon your arrival, but don’t be surprised if the explanation of this fee is frustratingly vague. After all, the housekeeping staff don’t make a lot of money to begin with, so shorting them on tips is kind of selfish and uncool.

Keep in mind that some hotels have taken their cue from the airlines and have begun charging for those little “extras” you may consider complimentary, such as:

  • Extra towels
  • Local phone calls
  • Late checkout
  • Choosing your own room

One last piece of advice about these fees: don’t get caught being charged a cancellation fee if you have to cancel your reservation. You may not be aware that some hotels charge you for the night if you cancel less than 72 or 48 hours in advance.

What kinds of hotel fees have you encountered on your travels? Have you been able to negotiate them off your bill or been surprised to find them? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Radesigns (Pixabay.com, Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

Air Travel That’s Easier on Your Brain and Body

May 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

We all know the basics for staying at our best during air travel: get plenty of rest, eat right, stay hydrated, exercise, and avoid caffeine. But here are a few tips to enhance your experience as you prepare for your next time to fly.

Knowledge is power, so instead of allowing your brain to be preoccupied the night before you take off with details about how you might make that 40-minute layover window, go online and determine the best way to navigate the distance between gates or terminals. You’ll go in with a plan and your brain will then be able to relax and solve other less troublesome problems while you sleep.

There are a few things you can do to make your air travel easier on your brain and your body.Instead of relying on airline food or airport food to nourish you, pack your own snacks, such as trail mix, jerky, or dried fruit. Sticking to your diet or eating regimen will allow your body to weather the rigors of travel without diverting energy and effort to digestion. If you need some sort of energy boost, pack a high-fiber snack such as an apple, a pear, or some raspberries. Even choosing to pack a simple baggie of bran flakes can, with the purchase of a carton of milk at a terminal restaurant or store, become a healthy alternative to a donut with coffee.

Speaking of caffeine, avoid it in order to remain hydrated during air travel. Notorious for their dry environments, the recycled air in planes doesn’t help your system function at its best, and caffeine is also known to increase dehydration. Drinking extra water the day before will help ward off the sluggishness associated with dehydration. Pack a reusable water bottle — make sure it’s empty when you go through security — to help you have access to water without paying through the nose for a plastic bottle.

Substituting green tea for coffee will give you some caffeine with extra benefits. Green tea also contains EGCG, an immune-boosting antioxidant, and L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid known to help you be calm and relaxed in flight.

Exercise while traveling doesn’t have to entail packing special shoes or clothing. Simply choosing to walk up the escalator or between terminals instead of taking the airport’s shuttle system will kickstart your body’s metabolism and increase your mental sharpness.

Traveling by plane can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. How do you cope with flying, especially if you’re a regular flyer? Share your tips in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Adrian Pingstone (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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