How to Check for Hidden Cameras in Your Hotel Room or Vacation Rental

March 19, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

It doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it rarely happens at all — not enough to make us stop traveling. Still, you hear the occasional story about hidden cameras being found in a hotel room, vacation rental, office space, or Airbnb rental.

So while you don’t have to panic that you’re being spied upon wherever you go, it doesn’t hurt to be a little vigilant when you stay somewhere new.

Smarter Travel lists three methods for checking for hidden cameras, as suggested by “The Monk,” a technical surveillance countermeasures and intelligence expert from Advanced Operational Concepts who goes by the anonymous moniker. Here’s his advice.

There are essentially three primary methods for checking for a hidden camera.

  1. Scanning of radio frequencies (RF)
  2. Lens detection
  3. Physical search

Most of the equipment costs less than $100 and are available in the commercial market. But The Monk warns that none of them are 100% accurate.

Each have pros and cons, too. For example, RF scanning only helps in identifying a device if that device is actively transmitting. If it stores data on a card and is recovered later, the RF scanner is fairly useless.

Hidden cameras are very rare, but it still helps to know how to look for them.Lens detection is very effective, if used properly. If you are too far from the lens, sweep the room too quickly, or are just standing at the wrong angle from the lens, then you’ll likely miss seeing the lens when it reflects the light from your own light source.

According to The Monk, the most thorough method is physical inspection which requires patience and access — prying open smoke detectors, opening the backs of paintings, and possibly opening a section of a wall to see if anything is inside. (This can be a problem if you’re in someone else’s house.)

A mix of the three is best.

“You may not be able to achieve 100 percent confidence that the space is clear of hidden devices, but you’ll be a lot closer than you were when you first walked into the room,” said The Monk.

Before you start searching, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what you’re looking for.

So, where should you look?

Thinking logically, what would someone be interested in capturing? Since a camera needs a clear view of the subject to get the sharpest image, a visual scan of the area will provide answers. Bathrooms, bedrooms, and offices are common targets. Areas where computer screens are visible for capturing passwords, banking information and other information. Most hidden cameras now are so small and prepackaged in common items that they don’t seem obvious. (Think cameras in stuffed animals used to watch activity in a child’s room).

Other hiding places include smoke detectors, alarm clocks, even electrical outlets and power strips.

However, The Monk cautions travelers to avoid descending into full paranoia.

“In hotel rooms, for example, if items continue to be placed in a particular location after a room is serviced, then that could be a sign that the item needs to be positioned that way so that a camera has a good angle of view. Of course, this could also just be the maid tidying up, so don’t immediately jump to full paranoia.”

What to Do if You Find a Hidden Camera

First of all, hiding hidden cameras in hotel rooms or vacation rentals is illegal. It’s also a violation of most rental companies’ policies, so be sure to check the vacation listing and policy if you find one.

If you do find a hidden camera in your vacation rental, leave immediately and report it to the company. If you’re staying in a hotel and find one, request an immediate room change. If that’s not possible, turn the objects you suspect toward the wall or cover them with a towel.

While protecting your privacy is smart, there is a caveat. Certain countries, like Russia and China frown upon such behavior. In places such as these, it is highly likely that hotels frequented by business travelers are monitored and tampering with such devices can be seen as problematic. If they know you’re looking for hidden devices, that not only makes them more suspicious, they may want to question you further, and could detain you for hours or days.

While we’re on the subject of security, certain models of our Platinum® Elite and Crew™ bags have RFID protected pockets that will store your passport and block it from rogue RFID scanners as a way to protect against loss and identity theft.

How concerned are you with hidden cameras in your hotel room or office? Have you ever found one or know someone who has? Share your stories with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Pexels.com (Creative Commons 0)

Eight Packable Items that Could Save Your Life

March 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

No one typically thinks to pack emergency preparedness items when planning a business trip or vacation. But making a few basic plans can help you be prepared for the worst that your destination can throw at you. So there’s one simple step that can help you be prepared: know the risks associated with your destination.

For starters, check out the FEMA app which provides tips on how to deal with disasters like earthquakes severe weather, wildfires, volcanoes, and terrorism.

Additionally, emergency experts suggest that when you’re at your destination, keep a pair of shoes and socks by your bed in case you need to leave the room in an emergency, such as a fire, so you can protect your feet from broken glass.

A recent article in Smarter Travel got us to thinking about taking precautions when we travel, and they shared eight items that could save your life while on the road.

A whistle may be loud and obnoxious, but that means it can provide personal safety if you’re walking alone or at night. It can also help rescuers find you. A “pealess” whistle is best—and provides maximum durability. Its high-pitched sound can be easier to detect than a human voice and it will work if anything impairs your ability to yell, like dehydration or crushing.

A keychain flashlight is one of the packable items that can help you out when you're in a tight spot.In the event of a power failure — natural disaster or not — a flashlight can provide a much-need light source. Choose a small, keychain-sized LED light with a long battery life. It’s ideal if you’re stuck in a subway, navigating poorly lit paths, camping, or even reading in bed while sharing a room. Plus it saves your cell phone battery in those non-emergency uses.

Speaking of a loss of electricity, bring along a battery backup charger. If the electricity fails, you can you can use it to keep your phone operable. You may not be able to make calls, but you’ll be able to have a spare flashlight, and access to emergency apps. On a brighter note, if there isn’t a power failure, bringing an extra charger means helping you stay connected (via apps, maps, social media, email, and phone) whenever your phone battery runs low.

Take a first-aid kit that includes the basics (bandages, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment). No matter where you’re headed, you’ll be prepared for blisters, scrapes, bug bites and other minor injuries.

A space blanket will not only provide warmth if the heating system fails, it can be resourceful if you need a place to rest during an overnight airport layover. On a brighter, shinier note, it can be a great makeshift picnic blanket.

A small, simple dust mask, like a surgical mask, is another “must have.” Not only do these small, stackable masks protect you from airborne particles, they can also prevent you from spreading your germs, too. (Or getting sick if you’re around a lot of sick people or have a weakened immune system.)

Take a bottle of water. Clean water is one of the most important things you can have with you. Having clean, accessible water can prevent dehydration and it can save you money by not buying a bottle for $4 when you’ve got no other options. Better yet, bring a reusable water bottle, and fill it each morning.

Finally, pack a few high protein snacks for energy or a quick snack if your blood sugar is low. Protein bars like Clif bars are heavy and dense, and can give you a quick boost. Tuck a couple into your briefcase, purse, or backpack and pull one out when you need it.

What are some of the must-have emergency items you take on trips? Did we miss anything? Or do you have a favorite make, model, or energy bar you don’t leave home without? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

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

The Benefits of Softside luggage vs Hardside luggage

February 26, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re trying to decide between hardside and softside luggage, it can be a tough choice. There are pros and cons to each depending on what kind of traveling you do and which feature sets are important to you.

To start, let’s just say that we’re bigger fans of softside luggage. Most of our luggage lines are softside, although we do offer a few models of hardside bags. (And I’ll even admit to wanting one of those brushed aluminum briefcases when I was a kid because they looked so cool.) We’ve found that more people want softside bags and we have followed the market demands.

Here are a few differences between the two styles:

The Maxlite 5 21" spinner, our lightest softside luggage.

The Maxlite 5 21″ spinner, our lightest softside luggage.

First, softside luggage is usually lighter than the hardshell bags. For example, our Maxlite® 5 21″ spinner weighs 5.4 pounds empty, and it’s one of the lightest carry-on bags in the industry. In some cases, hard shells can be lighter than soft shells because they don’t always have interior reinforcement, but then you could be sacrificing durability for weight.

Speaking of durability, softside bags have a bit of an advantage because hard shell bags can crack and break when they’re dropped. They can do a better job of protecting what’s inside, if the shell is really thick and rigid but again, that comes with additional weight.

Packing may be an issue when you look at the configuration of a hardside versus a softside. For the most part, the hard shell bags are split right in the middle, giving you two nearly-equal halves to pack everything. This can be a bit of a problem if you’re trying to pack bulky items.

On the other hand, a softside bag is usually a single compartment with a flat lid. The whole suitcase is a single packing space, which lets you see how much will fit without a lot of closing and repacking, closing and repacking until you finally get the lid shut.

And space is a problem with hardshell bags. Many of them cannot be expanded, and you certainly can’t compress them to fit into a cramped overhead bin. There, the softsides have the advantage. Not only does the fabric give a little bit, so you can close the lid a little more easily, but many of them come with expansion zippers that give you a couple extra inches of room.

Softside bags also have added accessibility in the forms of exterior pockets. Nearly all of our softside carry-on bags have pockets for water bottles, folders, reading material, and even a large exterior pocket to stick a light jacket or your laptop. We even offer some carry-on models in our Crew™ 11 and Platinum® Elite collections that feature a small pocket for your rechargeable battery pack that integrates with an external USB port so you can charge your phone while you move.

For many business travelers, the softside bags are the preferred choice, especially for carry-ons. They’re lightweight, have external pockets for extra storage and convenience, they can hold more, fit into tighter spaces, and packing is much easier because of the single compartment. Keeping them clean and dry isn’t a problem for many business travelers since you’re usually going from the apartment to your car to the hotel, and so on. If you’re worried about the elements, our bags feature a DuraGuard® coating which protects the bags from moisture and abrasions.

What do you think? Do you prefer softside or hardside luggage? Which ones have you had in the past? Would you switch? Share your thoughts and stories on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

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)

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)

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)

Sleepbox Micro-Hotel to Open at Washington Dulles International Airport

January 8, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Thinking inside the box might be a good place for a nap if you’re at Dulles International Airport. As travelers long for a place to sleep other than the floor or curled up in a chair, Dulles will now offer a place to sleep, recharge or relax before your next flight.

According to USA Today, Sleepbox Nap Lounge opened during Christmas week on Concourse A, and is located between gates A6 and A14. Offering 16 small, stand-alone sound-proofed rooms, the micro-hotel will be the answer to the prayers of many weary travelers.

A double Sleepbox Hotel micro-hotel.The rooms can be rented through the Sleepbox website or app and reservations can last for an hour for a quick catnap or even an overnight stay. Canceled flights just looked a bit better with an option to get sleep and not worry about traffic back to the airport.

The article says the rooms are designed to be “cozy” with 8-foot ceilings and 30 square feet for a compact size. A 45 square foot room is also available with a little more storage space. Beds in both sizes are made of premium memory foam.

Room temperatures can be set via the Sleepbox app and so will lighting and the wireless entertainment system. It’s important to note that there are no restrooms or showers available at the micro-hotel, so if you need to use the facilities overnight, plan ahead and don’t leave your room without your mobile phone.

Minute Suites, a Sleepbox competitor, are currently available in Dallas, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Atlanta airports. Travelers familiar with these small rooms know they offer a sound-masked room for sleeping, working, or just relaxing in some peace and quiet. Minute Suites offer alarm clocks, HDTV (Netflix and DirecTV), and desks with chairs; some even offer showers.

The Atlanta airport sleeping concept has two locations and Minute Suites will open four new locations in the new year. Atlanta’s Concourse E will have 16 suites and two showers; Concourse F will offer six suites and one shower. Not to be left out, Concourses T and B will a part of “Traveler’s Oasis” concept with Be Relax Spa and Chiroport, which offers 15-minute chiropractic treatments that including spine adjustments and trigger-point muscle work.

Dulles is the first airport to get a Sleepbox micro-hotel, but the article says Sleepbox is already in talks with a few other large U.S. hubs for future locations.

Would you sleep in a micro-hotel or other tiny sleep room? Do the lack of toilet and shower facilities make a difference? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Vzor495 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

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