How MSNBC Road Warriors Survive Life on the Road

November 13, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2016, MSNBC introduced the world to Road Warriors, a group of young correspondents who cross the country covering political campaigns for MSNBC, NBC News, and NBC News Digital.

For the 2018 midterm elections, MSNBC brought back the road warriors for more coverage. In a recent USA TODAY article, four of them — Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent; Jacob Soboroff, MSNBC News correspondent; Gadi Schwartz, NBC News correspondent and co-host of “Stay Tuned;” and Gadi Schwartz, MSNBC road warrior — shared their insights for traveling under some unusual circumstances, which can be helpful whichever side of the aisle you lean.

In order to learn about a new area, Hunt said she seeks out local coffee shops right off the bat. Chatting up locals is a great way to find out more about the area. Politicians know how crucial these places are and often stop by for a meal.

As the face of the news, Hunt must be able to go live at a moment’s notice. So how does she stay camera-ready virtually anywhere? She makes sure her clothes, makeup, and a hairbrush are always within an arm’s reach by keeping them all in her carry-on bag. She said scarves serve many purposes, from a fresh look on camera to a layer of warmth on a plane. With earplugs, a travel pillow, and a scarf, Hunt is able to sleep just about anywhere. Irregular sleeping can be offset with a Tylenol PM or a phone app for relieving stress and enabling the listener to relax and ultimately fall asleep.

MSNBC road warriors carry battery packs to help them stay connected on the road.Hunt is also adamant about bringing along external batteries to keep her phone fully charged. Eating healthy can be tough while she’s on the go, so she tries to balance the healthy with the unhealthy. Finally, she makes sure she uses TSA’s PreCheck and other travel rewards programs.

Like Hunt, MSNBC correspondent Soboroff must be able to hit the road at a moment’s notice. Such urgency can wreak havoc on a person physically and emotionally, notwithstanding the ability to be camera-ready. Soboroff offers a unique suggestion: drink coffee, shower, drink more coffee and throw in an occasional shave. Another travel secret? He only uses carry-on bags, and never checks his luggage. He also said puffy jackets are a great alternative for pillows while trying to catch some sleep on a flight. Locations don’t always offer fitness facilities, so he improvises with Pilates and push-ups in his room. Other days he runs and stretches whenever possible.

NBC News correspondent Gadi Schwartz relies on YouTube to motivate him to work out on the road. Not a huge fan of fitness, Schwartz appreciates the music to keep him moving. Eating Acai bowls when he can is another healthy choice and juices are a go-to when he feels under the weather.

A bigger challenge is appearance, from the need for a haircut (which often results in taking matters into his own hands) to keeping his wardrobe neat. The secret to his success though is something everyone has: pockets. Headphones, cash, keys, charging packs, glasses, all have a home and become easily accessible. He always keeps them in the same pockets so he knows where everything is.

Technology comes into play with three time zones on a watch, which allows him the ability to stay aware of deadlines. Drowning out noise helps him sleep, and something as simple as a cooler room and avoiding technology before bedtime also helps him fall asleep.

Finally, NBC News correspondent Morgan Radford has found a sleep mask is her essential key to sleeping anywhere. In fact, it’s always in her purse. Like Hunt, Radford carries a scarf for making an ordinary outfit look a bit more polished. Her makeup musts include concealer and light lip gloss. She packs only versatile luggage: her four-wheeled, two-handled suitcase and stackable backpack that doubles as a briefcase and foldable purse with essentials.

Radford also focuses on healthier living: some weeks, it’s a strict diet and less exercise; others, it’s more exercise and a less strict diet. Either way, vegetables are her go-to for keeping energy up.

Road warriors, how do you survive spending so much time on the road? Do you have any special suggestions for those of us who are getting into the road warrior arena? Please share any suggestions with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Ilya Plekhanov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

How One Travel Writer Saved Thousands in World Travel

November 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, to be young and able to travel anywhere, eat anywhere, sleep anywhere at any time. We recently found an article by travel writer Evie Carick, who listed several ways she was able to make her travel dollars go further. While it may not be ideal for the seasoned executive who’s accustomed to traveling business class, for younger business travelers or people heading out on vacation, these are some tips to help you stretch your travel dollars.

Some of them are old standards, such as taking public transportation, traveling during the off-season, walking, and of course, hoarding freebies. But there are a few new nuggets thanks to advances in technology, such as Hopper’s flight alerts and Kayak’s flex month, to name a few. Here are some of Evie’s tips that we especially liked.

A train in a station. A travel writer suggested riding trains overnight to save money and time.Consider traveling at night, especially if you’re going by train. Not only can you travel comfortably (i.e. wearing pajamas), but you aren’t wasting a day traveling. Grab a sleep mask, ear plugs and blanket. Fall asleep in one place and awaken in another, ready to sightsee. Plus, you’ve just saved yourself a night’s stay in a hotel. Pack light, only a week’s worth of clothes, and do laundry as you reach your destinations. Put your laptop and toiletries in a backpack, and avoid checking any luggage.

Speaking of transportation, have you flown one of the many small, budget airlines? Google your destination and discover which airlines travel to your intended destination. Spirit, Frontier, and JetBlue are worth a good first look if you need to save money.

Booking directly also helps lower costs, but keep an eye out for extra fees and surcharges as they accumulate quickly. Try Skyscanner’s Everywhere search to find cheap flights close to your final destination, then book the final leg of the trip separately, or get a rental car.

Do you still have your student ID? Assuming it wasn’t more than a decade ago and the age differences aren’t obvious, show your student ID to get some additional discounts only available to students. And if you’re over 50, AARP offers great discounts for travelers, as does AAA.

Want to do some sightseeing? Learning about a new city can be costly, but if you take only free city tours, you might be surprised at what you discover about your destination. Check out Sandeman if you’re staying in a major European city, while FreeTour.com is available in 118 countries around the world. No free tours where you are? Ask at your hotel or tourist information desk if they know of any. Finally, even though it’s a freebie, your guide might appreciate a tip at the end.

To get around a new city, download an offline Google Map for Internet-free orientation. You can also download a language dictionary in Google Translate. BonusTranslate operates in airplane mode, so you don’t have to worry about chewing up data when you’re in a foreign country.

In fact, try to keep your phone in airplane mode while you’re in another country, unless you specifically have a phone that works overseas. (Ask your mobile provider if you’re not sure.) Then, if you need to send a text or update social media, use a place with free wifi, like McDonald’s or Starbucks — you can find those around the world. Also, consider using apps like WhatsApp to send texts and only use it on wifi, so you don’t incur international charges.

If you’d rather drive yourself to do some sightseeing, make sure your credit card or car insurance will cover you. If it does, skip the insurance from the car rental agency. In most cases, their insurance is expensive and unnecessary, but talk to your credit card provider and insurance agent to be sure.

Speaking of credit cards, make sure your cards won’t hit you with foreign transaction fees. Ideally, it will also offer airline rewards which can help you earn airline miles for every dollar spent. For example, you could use an American Express Gold to earn Delta miles. Use it to pay your bills, and then pay off your AMEX each month. You’ll eventually earn enough miles to score a free ticket.

Lastly, make sure you bank card doesn’t require ATM fees. Some offer reimbursement of ATM fees worldwide while others offer unlimited reimbursements in the US. If you’re going to travel a lot, you may want to switch banks to one that doesn’t charge ATM fees.

How do you save money when you travel? What are some of your big money-saving secrets? Share your money-saving tips with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: PXHere.com (Creative Commons 0)

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling

October 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Several weeks ago, we wrote about how one of the dirtiest places in the airport is the check-in kiosk at the front of the airport. Thousands of fingers poke at the screen every day, and no one cleans it off. Compare that to the airport bathrooms, which are cleaned hourly. In other words, the airport bathroom is much more sanitary than a computer kiosk.

Other germ-laden places you face during air travel? Armrests on the seats at the gates, armrests on the plane, and the tray tables.

And let’s not forget the security checkpoints. It turns out that the containers you send through the x-ray machine are also some of the nastiest places in the airport. Everyone touches the containers, but not everyone has clean hands.

The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the worst in history, and we’re not sure what 2018-2019 is going to bring. And since it’s right around the corner, you’re at greater odds of getting sick when you travel this winter, so preventative measures are key to staying healthy.

One way to prevent the flu is getting a flu vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now is the time to get one, and you should get it sooner rather than later, as it takes two weeks for the vaccine to provide the highly-desired protection. Even if the vaccine is not 100% effective, or you get infected with another strain of the flu virus, the vaccination reduces transmission in the population in general, as well as lessens your own symptoms.

Self-check-in kiosks is often the dirtiest place in the airport.If you want to avoid getting sick when you travel, there are a few precautions you should take. First, the CDC suggests carrying a travel health kit, consisting of tissues, soap, alcohol-based sanitizer, and pain/fever medicine. We’ll also recommend adding some sanitizing wipes as well. Having these items handy may reduce your risk of infection and keep you well.

Use the hand sanitizer whenever you touch a dirty surface, or use the sanitizing wipes to wipe down those surfaces before you ever touch them. Wipe down the the armrests at the gate and your armrests and tray table on the plane. Use the hand sanitizer once you board and again after you use the bathroom on the plane.

Avoid traveling when you feel ill. Should you become ill, your physician can prescribe drugs to treat the flu infection, making the illness shorter and milder. The same is true for a cold — it may not be as severe as the flu, but it can still put a damper on your trip.

And when you do travel, follow a few simple rules:

  • Avoid close contact with people who appear sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough by doing it in your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after you blow your nose or use the bathroom.
  • Avoid touching your face if you’re in public because that’s often how the flu gets into your system — through touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with dirty hands.
  • Finally, hygiene, sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating right will greatly help reduce your risk of contracting most illnesses.

How do you stay healthy when you travel? Do you have any “I got sick on a business trip” horror stories? Share them with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Marek Ślusarczyk (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5)

Air Travel Secrets from a Professional Airline Critic

October 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to finding the hidden secrets about air travel, there’s no one better to turn to than a tried-and-true expert. And not just an expert, but someone who’s paid to find problem areas in the airlines’ performance.

Brent Bowen is America’s leading airline critic — and frequent air traveler — who has uncovered a few secrets on how to find the right carrier for you, how to avoid pain on your flight, and how to understand those obscure rules of air travel.

Bowen is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor, and he publishes the Airline Quality Rating, a report we’ve sometimes written about on this blog. And the fact that he still flies shows that he’s figured out several secrets, which means he has less-eventful flights and is able to relax more while he’s on the plane.

The bottom line is simple: if you don’t make an informed decision about your travel plans, someone else will, and chances are that “someone” will be the airline. Their main concern is getting you from point A to point B safely; it’s up to you to do it in comfort and style. So here are some of Bowen’s secrets for having a more comfortable flight.

Knowing the right air travel secrets can help you have a more comfortable flight.Finding the right airline for you is key. You need one that fits your needs and budget. Do you need early seating? Do you want to avoid extra fees? Or is seat room a big concern? Dealing with an airline directly may give you more control over seating preferences, so research tickets and loyalty perks before you settle on one for the foreseeable future.

Next, know the rules. Air travel has become complex and most folks are unaware of the recent surge of fees and restrictions currently held by airlines. Be aware of the rules, especially with “low cost” carriers, who will often make up the lost ticket costs with additional fees. Look for deals and chances to avoid fees, such as joining an airline’s loyalty program or buying your ticket with one of their points-earning credit cards.

Whenever possible, Bowen says, fly nonstop as stopovers increase chances of lost luggage, delays, or other misfortunes. You only have one flight to contend with, so if there are any delays, you’re still going to get to your destination. But if you have a multi-leg flight, one late flight can throw off the entire trip.

If nonstop is not an option, then avoid checking a bag. Try to purchase a better seat to avoid the middle seat/back of plane (choose the upgrade to Economy Plus). And check the airline’s website and see if you can choose your seat in advance.

If you’re traveling for business and these options fall outside your corporate travel policy, see if you can make your own arrangements, and request reimbursement later. Alternatively, it might be better to take a longer trip than one with additional stops.

What are some of your air travel secrets to make sure you arrive in comfort? Road warriors, what tips have you learned that we could all benefit from? Share them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Vincent Desjardins (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

TSA, American Airlines Testing 3D Screening of Carry-on Bags at JFK

October 2, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is starting to look at luggage in a whole new way. A way that’s faster, more efficient, and will get you through the security checkpoints much faster. It’s called 3D screening and it looks at your blag in three dimensions, not the traditional two.

According to an article in USA Today, the TSA announced plans to begin testing a 3D scanner for carry-on luggage. The device, created by Analogic, has already begun testing with American Airlines at New York’s JFK airport. The test began in late July and uses a ConneCT scanner.

A 2D bag being screened. 3D screening will let you also look at the depth of bags.The partnership with Analogic and TSA could transform aviation security by adding state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) technology to the security checkpoints, according to José Freig, American’s chief security officer.

“At American, we are always looking at ways to invest in technology that raises the bar on global aviation security while improving the customer experience,” Freig said.
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Five Ways to Boost Productivity While You Travel

September 25, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling for work can be considered a perk — in fact, many people often look for jobs with it — but for some it becomes a drain on productivity which can lose that high momentum normally happening at the office.

Between traveling to the airport, sitting at the gate, and sitting on the tarmac, productivity can plummet when you travel. But just five small changes can make a world of difference.

Work from the bottom up. Consider the way you typically attack the top of your priority list first. When you’re traveling, start at the bottom when you’re at the airport and on the plane. While these items may require attention, they’re probably not intensive and may not require a great deal of attention or focus. You can probably do them on auto-pilot or without straining your brain.

A coffee shop is a great place to be productive while you travel.

Cup Deal Online Business Drinks Coffee Shop


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Lights Out for These Hotel Mattress Myths

September 20, 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.
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Take Care of Yourself if You Travel Frequently

August 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you travel frequently — 15 or more days a month on business — you can consider yourself a road warrior. But a new study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York says a better description might be wounded warrior.

The study of 18,000 business travelers who are away from home half the month or more found these individuals struggling greatly with their health. Many have mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and they are sleep deprived and overly dependent on alcohol. They don’t get exercise and they tend to smoke more than those who don’t spend as much time away from home for work. They also have higher blood pressure and lower than acceptable good cholesterol levels.

Hotel Gym at Casa Velas Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A hotel gym is a great place to work out if you travel frequently.

Hotel Gym at Casa Velas Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

One of the study’s lead authors, Andrew Rundle, wrote in the Harvard Review that “the clustering of all these health conditions among extensive business travelers is worrying, both for their own health and the health of the organizations they work for.” He suggests education both for the individuals as well as for the companies as a good first step toward changing this alarming situation.

“At the individual level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep,” Rundle explains. “However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel.”

Rundle offered practical tips for employees that included being very selective about when travel is absolutely necessary and being honest with themselves about what constant travel is doing to their health and well-being.

One thing he suggested could serve as a tangible affirmation of the company’s commitment to the health of its warriors is providing memberships to national fitness centers for these frequent travelers.

Bottom line: If you travel frequently, please eat healthy, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and exercise 20 minutes per day, three times a week. That means things like walking to appointments, working out in the hotel gym, or just going for a walk in the evening. Don’t load up on rich heavy meals in restaurants, avoid soda and lots of alcohol, and drink water throughout the day. If you can do that, you can improve your health greatly while you travel.

Do you travel frequently for business? Do you take care of yourself, exercise, and get plenty of sleep, or do you find yourself lacking in a couple of those areas? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Casa Velas Hotel (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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)

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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