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)

Five Apps to Keep you Entertained and Informed

July 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re busier than ever. While we used to have to DVR our shows and catch up with them later — and before that, we videotaped them or made sure to sit down when they actually aired! — mobile devices now give us the opportunity to not only be entertained but informed, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

We used to be held captive by the TV monitor at the airport gate area, now we can use some mobile apps to control the content we read, watch, or hear. While everyone knows about apps like Spotify, ESPN, and Netflix, we wanted to share some more unusual, lesser-known apps for your consideration as you’re on the go. You can use these while you’re in the car, on the plane, or just shuffling around your hotel room as you get ready for bed. And you can use them at home as well.

TuneIn Radio - One of the five best entertainment apps

TuneIn Radio

If you like listening to the radio, particularly to keep yourself updated about what’s going on in your hometown, TuneIn Radio allows you to hear your local commercial or NPR station from anywhere in the world. It will let you listen to any local radio station that also broadcasts on the Internet, as well as download podcasts and even listen to certain sporting events, like MLB, NFL, and even the World Cup.

The same is true for your local TV station and your local newspaper. An easy check in your app store will let you know if your local ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliate has an app where you can find local news. If your town’s newspaper doesn’t have its own app, you might be able to access it if it’s owned by Gannett Company. The publisher of USA Today also owns over 100 daily newspapers and over 1,000 weekly newspapers and offers this local content through its app. All these can provide you with a taste of home even when you’re away.

Six of our favorite entertainment apps for when you're on the road

Six apps to help you stay entertained and informed while you’re on the road.

If you want to stream content on your phone or tablet and protect yourself from being throttled by your data provider, you may want to look into VPN Unlimited. While not an app, this virtual private network service allows you to sign in and choose from a list of preselected servers in different countries. For example, you can access international content from these servers such as World Cup coverage in Iceland or the Olympics as they’re televised in Canada. For those who don’t have cable, this is one way to access premium sports coverage without paying. You’re just watching content provided by another country’s public access channels. Finally, if you’re traveling overseas and want to watch Netflix, you can’t, since Netflix doesn’t allow access to U.S content from outside the country. To work around that lockout, VPN Unlimited also has a dedicated Netflix server which allows you to watch your U.S.-based Netflix from anywhere in the world.

NPR One is the news junkie’s favorite app. Unlike the regular NPR app, which is sort of like a streamlined public radio-only version of TuneIn, the NPR One app lets you select the news, stories, and podcasts just for you. It’s like building your own NPR newscast. The regular NPR app is great for if you want to find your favorite classical, jazz, or eclectic music radio station (like KCRW’s Eclectic24 from Santa Monica, California), but I especially like NPR One for its focus on news and information.

What kinds of entertainment apps do you use to stay entertained and informed? How do you keep up with news from home or your favorite destination? Share them with us, the more esoteric the better! Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Used with permission)

TSA Launches Stricter Screening Guidelines

June 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Enhanced carry-on screening procedures that were tested at 10 U.S. airports during last summer’s peak travel season have now been implemented across the entire security system, which are adding some extra steps to the TSA security check process. The biggest change comes in how travelers must handle their personal electronic devices.

While it has been a requirement for years that laptops be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in a separate bin, now any personal electronic device larger than a cell phone must also be screened outside the bag. The list includes tablets, e-readers, and handheld gaming systems, while batteries for charging these devices have not yet made the list.

“By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers, and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

TSA Checkpoint - Road Warriors know to avoid this by being a part of TSA's Pre-CheckTravelers carrying food and powders through security may also be subject to removal so TSA officers may obtain clear x-ray images. The administration advises travelers to keep their bags uncluttered and organized in order to avoid being selected additional screening of specific items. Also, be aware that some of your items may just call for extra screening anyway, so add some extra time and don’t cut your flight time so close.

For example, carrying a stack of books in your bag may get you pulled aside for additional screening. I know of one person who was traveling with six of his books in his bag to sell at a speaking event, and they showed up as a dense mass on the TSA x-ray machine. So a TSA agent checked each book to ensure there weren’t any explosives inside the pages of the book. The whole process only took an additional 10 minutes, but that could have been a problem if his flight was boarding at that moment.

Individuals with TSA PreCheck are exempt from the new regulations, which is just one more reason to sign up for the security-skipping program.

Staples, the office supply chain, in partnership with security firm, IDEMIA, has announced it will make applying for the five-year priority screening available using 50 IdentoGo enrollment centers at stores in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle this summer. For $85, PreCheck-approved travelers can leave their shoes on and do not have to remove any liquids, electronic devices, belts, or jackets as they go through security.

What plans or contingencies do you have for these new TSA screening guidelines? Have you already experienced them? What did you think? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter page.

Photo credit: NJTVNews (YouTube, Creative Commons)

Google Flights Can Predict Delays Before They Happen

April 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have the mobile app for whatever airline you’re loyal to. Why? Not only can you check in to your flight 24 hours before your flight leaves, it also informs you of any current delays to your flight. You can adjust plans before you ever get to the airport and make any schedule changes necessary.

But what if you could save yourself the hassle of being caught in a flight delay before it ever occurs? You can, if you use Google Flights.

A new feature has been added to the app that uses machine learning algorithms and historical flight data to predict the likelihood of a specific flight being delayed. Not when the flight is actually delayed, but when it could be delayed. That could be a significant head start on making any schedule changes and could save you lots of headaches and stress!

Photo of a flight departure screen showing a delayed flight. Google Flights can more easily predict these now.While it’s not a 100% guarantee that a flight will be delayed, Google has said that it only posts the delay when it’s 80 percent certain.

While Google Assistant already informs you of a delay, Google Flight’s new features also provide detailed information about the cause, be it weather or system delays that prevent flights from taking off. To check the status of your flight, all you have to do is supply your airline and flight number or search your airline and route.

The Google Flights updates also allow travelers to view what isn’t included in the price of a ticket you’re considering. For example, United Basic Economy doesn’t allow you to access overhead bins, choose your seat, upgrade your seat, or change your ticket, but you may not have known that. Now this information is now available for all American, Delta, and United fares, so you can look up your ticket’s amenities online and see which ticket will provide you with the best value and most comfort.

Flight delays are expensive, aggravating, and exhausting. The airline apps have helped this a great deal, but if you start using Google Flights, some of this inconvenience can be avoided.

Have you used Google Flights? Is this something you’ll start using in the future? What do you hope it will provide for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Jason Tester Guerilla Future (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Hilton Guests Control Preferences with Smartphones

April 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already using our smartphones for everything, including as an automated assistant and running our smart homes, Hilton is now offering a “smart room” for its hotels nationwide. This will provide their guests the ability to manage their preferences without putting down their beloved devices.

According to a story on TravelMarketReport.com, the hotel chain plans to make some of its rooms “mobile-centric” this year, allowing guests to change the thermostat, operate the light switches, and sync their streaming service to the room’s television through the Hilton Honors app. And making the hotel room feel more like home will be possible by uploading personal images to the room’s digital frames. Then, you can take photos of your loved ones with you without actually packing any photos in your suitcase.

“Hey Hilton”

Hilton guests will be able to select their rooms and open their doors with their smartphones.This move is the first in the hotel’s ultimate goal of providing guests the ability to use voice commands to control these features. If you already have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, you’re already familiar with how they work. A simple “Alexa” or “Okay Google” will let you activate one of its different commands, like turning on smart lights, changing the channel on your TV, or even ordering more coffee from Amazon Pantry.

Hilton is currently testing the system in one of their hotels, but said they plan to “scale rapidly” in the US this year.

Hilton expects to adapt the connected room based on the feedback it receives from its users. Hilton Honors app users already have the ability to check in, make their room selection, and open the door with a digital key, thus skipping any check-in lines if you’re at a conference. According to the company, four million keys have been downloaded since the program’s inception.

Marriott International is also vying for guests interested in utilizing mobile-centric amenities. It’s testing a voice-controlled shower and a yoga class video that can be viewed on the room’s full-length mirror.

Have you had a chance to use the new Hilton Honors app or smart room? Do you use a similar device at home? Will this make you more likely to stay at a Hilton? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Hilton Hotels (Used with permission)

What to Do in an Emergency While You’re Traveling

February 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

When Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, experienced a catastrophic power failure due to a fire this past December, 30,000 people were affected. If you were stranded somewhere due to a local emergency or natural disaster, do you have a plan in place for letting colleagues, friends, and family know of your safety and whereabouts?

While it may seem obvious that you could text, call, or take to social media to let those important to you know you’re okay, there are other alternatives you might want to consider as a backup plan if needed.

If you’re fortunate to have access to the Internet, contacting coworkers, friends, and relatives can be achieved through the aforementioned options as well as the check-in feature on Facebook.

Hospital Emergency sign in big red lettersThis function became increasingly useful and popular during the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and the Las Vegas concert shooting. Facebook was able to use a mobile phone’s location finder app, ask users if they were safe, and they could mark themselves as safe, putting friends’ and families’ minds at rest from hundreds of miles away.

But what if an incident were to strand you overseas or you weren’t on social media? There are other methods you can use, such as apps that work on wifi or cellular signals. Apps like Skype for phone calls, WhatsApp and Voxer for texting work on mobile phones or even an iPad or iPod Touch with wifi capabilities. And of course, if you have access to a laptop or Internet cafe, you can always send a quick message that way.

However you decide to get in touch with your loved ones, you should have a plan in place before you travel so that those you leave behind will know how they’ll hear from you in the event of a local emergency. Here’s one suggested protocol. Feel free to establish one that works best for you.

  • Designate one person as your main contact.
  • Provide that person a list of others they should contact once they hear from you.
  • Decide if you want your main contact to broadcast your status via social media or private channels.
  • Let those on that list know who you have put in charge of letting them know of your status.

If you have a basic emergency plan in place, you can easily let people know via simple electronic technology.

But if worse comes to worse, you can always find a phone booth and call someone collect.

What plans do you have for communicating in an emergency? Do you have any plans or strategies already in place? Have you ever had to use them? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

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

How Tech Has Transformed Business Travelers’ Productivity

January 9, 2018 by · 1 Comment 

If you were taking bets on whether business travelers would say their time on the road boosted their productivity, would you wager that a large percentage says it does? Or do you think most people say their travels have cut into their productivity?

If you said the former, you’d be right. According to a survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, 80 percent of business travelers claim that technology has greatly increased their ability to get work done while away from the office.

(Part of it may also be from not having to attend so many meetings.)

Many business travelers take their laptops with them to get work done.With a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop — the top three “travel tools” business travelers declared they couldn’t live without — no longer do people lament over lost time spent en route to clients. The advent of wifi in the sky and almost everywhere in between, downtime is almost a thing of the past. Business travelers utilize flight time and layovers, as well as time in hotel rooms to catch up on correspondence, complete proposals, and send documents wirelessly to keep projects on schedule.

“The business traveler can be so much more productive than even five years ago thanks to technology,” said Simon Nowroz, Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s CMO told Travelpulse.com, a travel news site. “Think about the advances where a business traveler used to have so much down time between a flight, taxi and hotel. Now, they can log in and work while on the plane or wherever they happen to be. With the continued emergence of the tablet, as well as numerous apps, travelers don’t feel out of touch as they carry out business.”

This ability to continue working whenever and wherever has prompted many — 78 percent — to actively seek ways to travel for business. Nearly nine of 10 survey respondents also claimed that they gained significant knowledge and perspective as a result of their business travels.

How do these road warriors stay connected while away from the office? Email is still the prevalent method of communication with 44 percent selecting it as their primary means of keeping in touch. Surprisingly, nearly 24 percent make phone calls while only 14 percent prefer to text important information to those back at the office.

Three other modes of technology cited as helpful in maintaining connectedness with loved ones were phone calls (44 percent), Skype (24 percent), and texting (14 percent).

Business travelers, do you stay more productive when you’re on the road? Or do you find that you lose productive work time because of time in the car or in the air? How do you stay in touch with loved ones and the office while you’re traveling? Share your ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: ChrisDag (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

American, Delta Ban Smart Luggage If Batteries Are Not Removable

January 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you received smart luggage for Christmas, we don’t mean to spoil your new year, but three major airlines — American, Alaska, and Delta — have already banned suitcases and carry-on bags that are equipped with integrated lithium-ion batteries and external charging ports.

In short, if you cannot remove your battery from your smart luggage, you can’t use the bag on those airlines.

Smart luggage: Crew Executive Choice 2 Backpack has a built-in phone charger. You supply the power pack though.

Crew Executive Choice 2 Backpack – with REMOVABLE phone charger

If you bring your luggage into the cabin, you can leave the battery in place, but you must have the option to remove it in case the airline needs to move everyone to a smaller plane.

The airlines cited concerns about inflight fires, as happened with the now-famous Galaxy Note 7 smartphones and kids’ hoverboards. You may also remember the Federal Aviation Administration’s short-lived ban on laptops with the same batteries in cargo holds on incoming international flights.

The ban goes into effect January 15 on American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines, even as United Airlines says they will soon follow; Southwest Airlines is reviewing their policy as well. Delta’s statement cited “the potential for the powerful batteries to overheat and pose a fire hazard risk during flight.” American declared its internal safety team evaluated these bags for necessary “risk mitigation” and deemed they “pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.”

Smart luggage: Travelpro Crew 11 USB Port

The Crew 11’s built-in power port is a great way to keep your mobile devices powered up and ready to go, but you can still remove the battery.

Before you return your smart luggage, make sure your replacement bag has the option where the battery can be removed or disconnected. Even if you toss the battery into the main compartment of the luggage, you can carry the bag onto the plane with you. But it has to be removable.

Travelpro has two Collections which feature a dedicated exterior power bank battery pocket which allows users to insert their own battery, connect a charging cable, and make use of an external USB port. Because the battery is not provided by the company, nor is it integrated into the hardware of the suitcase’s frame, travelers can remove it at any time within seconds. This puts all Travelpro’s luggage in compliance with any airline or FAA policy, current or future.

The collections which feature the dedicated power bank exterior pocket and external USB port include:

  • Crew™ 11 Softside and Hardside Collections, available in various carry-on models including the 21″ Expandable Spinner and 22″ Expandable Rollaboard® Suiter
  • Crew™ Executive Choice™ 2 Collection which includes a Pilot Brief, Checkpoint Friendly Backpack and Wheeled Brief

The FAA has a longstanding policy of banning spare lithium-ion batteries in checked luggage, while allowing passengers to stow them in carryons.

Did you get a smart bag for the holidays? How does this news impact you?on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Top Five Little-Known Travel Apps for Business Travelers

December 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When a traveler who has logged 2 million air miles and stayed 1,000 nights in a hotel offers his top five travel apps, you listen. Thanks to Maurice Freedman for sharing his “Swiss Army Knife suite of travel apps” to help all of us amateurs experience travel like a pro.

Freedman’s first app is stayconnect. It may seem like a small luxury, but being able to control the television in your hotel room without touching the remote could save you from picking up some unwanted germs. It doesn’t work in all hotels, but the 600,000 where it does makes it a worthy addition to your phone. (Plus it may help you change TV stations at a restaurant or coffee shop.)

Mobile phone being used by a woman with red painted fingernails, accessing her travel appsYou don’t have to depend on the hotel’s concierge for restaurant recommendations or to get reservations if you have the OpenTable app. You can search by location, cuisine, or price, and reserving a table is simple as pie. You can book and cancel without penalty too, which is great when your plans change on a dime. The only downside to this app is that not all dining establishments use it.

Don’t want to leave your hotel room to eat because you’re already in your comfy clothes for the night? Room service is not your only option. With Seamless, you can scroll through over 12,000 delivery menus for restaurants with 80+ kinds of cuisines, pay online (including tip), and then sit back and wait for your food to come right to your door.

If your phone comes with a weather app, you may question Freedman’s next recommendation. But does your weather app tell you when it’s going to rain in your specific location and how long you can expect that precipitation to inconvenience you? If you purchase Dark Sky, you won’t be caught without an umbrella when you need it, and you can set it to notify you at a specific time each day so that you know whether to expect blue or cloudy skies.

Texting is great until you have to leave the country. Then how do you communicate if your phone plan doesn’t cover international travel? What’sApp is your perfect solution. It works regardless of carrier or phone type and over one BILLION people enjoy its free service. All you need is wifi or a data plan to talk, text, or share locations.

What are your favorite little-known travel apps? What have you been using on your most recent travels? What’s the most esoteric-but-useful one on your mobile phone? Share your best travel apps with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Skeeze (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Delta, JetBlue Begin Testing Biometric Boarding Passes

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The future is now, or nearly so, now that the scanning of fingerprints is reaching mass adoption in the travel world. Delta is partnering with independent airport security company CLEAR to capitalize on its proven biometric data technology for expediting the boarding process.

“We’re rapidly moving toward a day when your fingerprint, iris, or face will become the only ID you’ll need for any number of transactions throughout a given day,” Gil West, Delta COO, said on the company’s website. “We’re excited Delta’s partnership with CLEAR gives us an engine to pioneer this customer experience at the airport.” While only in phase one of development, the potential is real for the printed or even electronic boarding pass to quickly become a relic of the past.

Delta Airlines' machine for biometric boarding passesThe current biometric boarding passes pilot program offers eligible Delta SkyMiles members who have also purchased CLEAR to navigate Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport using only their fingerprint as identification. They can clear security and enter the Delta Sky Club. Phase two would allow them to also check luggage and board their flight using their biometric boarding passes data.

JetBlue also began testing the use of facial recognition in June on just one route: Boston to Aruba. In its pilot partnership with air carrier technology company SITA and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), passengers have their picture taken at the gate. SITA’s technology compares that photo with the one on file with CBP to see if it matches the passenger’s passport photo. Because the flight is international, all passengers should already have a passport on file. If JetBlue decides to extend this technology to domestic flights, some other form of identification would have to be used, since not all travelers have valid passports.

Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said in a JetBlue press release: “This biometric self-boarding program for JetBlue and the CBP is designed to be easy to use. What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience . . . This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across US airports.”

Have you ever used biometric boarding passes to get onto your flight? Would you use it, or do you prefer the traditional methods? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Delta Airlines

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