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)

5 Ways to Save Money on a Business Trip

July 3, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chain Hotels vs B&Bs vs Airbnb

June 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Companies Allowing Business Travelers to Use Sharing Economies

January 30, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers who have taken an Uber or Lyft instead of hailing a taxi, or stayed at an Airbnb property instead of staying at a hotel chain, you’re among a growing majority of employees whose companies are encouraging using the emerging sharing economies.

According to a survey conducted by Chrome River Technologies, an expense and invoice management technology solutions company, 78 percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees allow their travelers to use ride-sharing services, while 68 percent allow home-sharing services.

The company asked 100 chief financial officers, controllers, and treasurers at 100 U.S.-based companies for this data in order to determine how much freedom corporations provide their employees when they travel for business.

The instantly recognizable pink mustache of a Lyft car. It's becoming a favorite method of travel among business travelers.

The instantly recognizable pink mustache of a Lyft car.

“Corporate travel and expense policies should be agile enough to address the ever-changing nature of business travel. It’s refreshing to see that larger organizations have already incorporated sharing economy services into their policies,” Alan Rich, Chrome River CEO, said in a statement.

While less than one-quarter of the officers surveyed said their company doesn’t have any policy regarding the use of sharing economy services, 17 percent have instituted policies that don’t allow the use of ride-hailing services, and 24 percent prohibit their employees from booking accommodations through home-sharing platforms. Perhaps even more surprising were the percentages regarding the mandating of such services: 13 percent of companies require their people to use ride-sharing apps, while 12 percent have dictated that travelers must use home-sharing instead of hotels for lodging.

The implementation of rules and policies for reimbursement and reporting of expenses related to these services follows the rising trend among leisure travelers. The survey data shows some are still hesitant to utilize such options.

Does your company allow you to use sharing economy accommodations or are you limited to just traditional hotel and travel brands? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

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

Airbnb Announces New Tool Strictly for Business Travelers

January 23, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve booked a room, apartment, or home through Airbnb for leisure travel and you’re considering how you might use the home-sharing platform for business accommodations, you’ll be happy to know that Airbnb has a new search function/program specifically for business travelers.

Categorized as Business Travel Ready (BTR), available properties must have a designated workspace or desk, wifi, and 24-hour check-in, although many of them often boast other amenities. The search function also highlights entire homes available for short-term use so that teams can share accommodations or individuals can have the entire space to themselves.

In order to access the BTR properties, you must link a work email address to the Airbnb account — so no Gmail, Hotmail, etc. It has to be your work email. You can sign up as a business traveler through airbnb.com/business-travel-ready, and you’re ready to find your next business travel lodging.

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

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

he has 150,000 properties listed globally, and 250,000 companies are using the site. According to a story on Travelpulse.com, David Holyoke, CEO of Airbnb’s business travel department, expected the number of people using the site for business purposes to quadruple in 2017.

While only 10 percent of their bookings are business related, the amount U.S. businesses spent on travel expenses topped $290 billion last year, and was expected to increase by more than four percent last year.

In 2016, the company achieved an industry first when it partnered with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), BCD Travel, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel to add home-sharing accommodations to its traditional corporate travel offerings.

Have you used Airbnb for business travel? Would you do so now that they have improved their business offerings? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Delta SkyMiles Members Earn Miles with Airbnb

January 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Delta has just added another way its SkyMiles members can accrue points toward reward travel, and you can get them just by sleeping on your next trip. Besides booking flights and making purchases with a Delta credit card, now members can earn points when they choose Airbnb as their lodging. Members must book lodging through deltaairbnb.com, and earn one mile for every dollar they spend.

We’ve been fans of Airbnb for a

while,

and recently talked about how Airbnb is returning to its roots and working to attract business travelers.
Staying at an Airbnb can earn you Delta SkyMiles
The arrangement has benefits for new Airbnb members too who are looking to “Fly Global, Live Local,” with $25 credit earned toward any stay totaling $75 or more if they book via the Delta dedicated site within 60 days of opening a new Airbnb account. In addition to the flat mile per dollar deal, those whose stay totals $75 will earn an extra 500 miles, and those whose stay totals $150 or more will earn 1000 extra miles.

The benefits aren’t just one-sided. New Airbnb hosts can incent their potential customers by advertising the partnership and can accumulate miles with Delta in the following increments:
Read more

Airbnb Goes Back to Its Roots

December 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers, wouldn’t it be great if you could break out of the hotel routine, even if it’s just for a couple days? Wouldn’t you enjoy eating in local restaurants and exploring the local scenery? What about saving as much as 20 – 30% over your normal hotel costs?

With its new, “Don’t go there. Live there.” campaign, Airbnb is trying to reach business travelers who are tired of hotels, or just want to experience more that a city has to offer.

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara California

An Airbnb house in Santa Barbara, California

With its push to garner a share of the business travel accommodations marketshare, Airbnb is actually returning to its roots. The company was started in August 2008 in San Francisco as a way to provide conference attendees alternative housing options that were considerably cheaper than the area’s hotels.

Since making a concerted effort to market its services to business travelers, business bookings have tripled since July 2015. Airbnb reports that 14,000 companies are signing up weekly, due to the company’s integration with major management systems, such as American Express Global Business Travel and BCD Travel. The company says the savings can be as much as 20 to 30 percent when compared to hotel accommodation costs.
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Shared Economy Opens Doors for New Travelers

June 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

You’re traveling to a new city, either on business or leisure, and you want to experience it the way the locals do. Before 2008, the idea of staying in someone’s home was only a viable option if you already knew someone there. Airbnb (and before that, HomeExchange) changed all that. Now you can safely stay in someone’s home or apartment and perhaps even share a meal with your hosts, providing a uniquely personal way to get acquainted with your destination.

Dairsie Castle, Scotland, a once-in-a-lifetime destination for travelers

It may not save you a lot of money, but travelers can stay in Dairsie Castle, Scotland as part of Airbnb.

While you may already be familiar with the shared economy of accommodations, did you know there’s also an alternative to the traditional rental car industry? Through companies like RelayRides, Zipcar, Hubber, Getaround, and JustShareIt, individuals can share their vehicles with travelers who need them on demand, or for as brief a time as one hour.

In some cases, the owners of the cars pick their renters up at the airport, saving time spent in rental car lines. If you’re looking for a different mode of transportation, Spinlister offers travelers the ability to rent a bicycle, snowboard, or skis. You can even rent a boat using GetMyBoat.
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Don’t Let Negative Thinking Stop You from Traveling

May 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, it’s a lot of work to go on a vacation. You have to plan your itinerary, find the best airfare, decide where to stay, and perhaps who to travel with. But everything in life requires effort, and we don’t want to see you miss out on a great experience because of the following negative myths:

It’s too expensive

In case you were waiting to win the lottery, the reality is everything costs money. There’s no free lunch, but there certainly are a plethora of free and discounted sites and activities to participate in, no matter where you decide to go. (Look at the activities you do at home — museums, sporting events, festivals.)

Backbid.com screnshot

Backbid.com works like Priceline, but in reverse: hotels bid by offering lower and lower prices to win your business.

And there are ways to take vacations that don’t cost much more than your regular living. For example, if you could drive to a new city 1,000 miles away and stay in an Airbnb apartment, you’re looking at the cost of gas and lodging. You can cook your own food, which you would have to do anyway, and you can just walk around and experience a brand new city for an entire week, and try the inexpensive and discounted activities.
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Amazing Airbnbs That Still Fit Your Budget

September 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airbnb has not only brought some big changes to hotel travel, it has even introduced travelers to some very exotic and wondrous properties.

Yahoo Travel recently discussed Airbnb rentals that are truly amazing places to stay. Although Airbnb is considered a budget travel site, it doesn’t always have to be a place to find hole-in-the-wall accommodations. In fact, there are quite a lot of nice places to stay.

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

Dairsie Castle, Scotland

And some places are amazing and affordable. Three particular places the article calls out include a glass tree house in the Tuscan forest, a Scottish castle, and a restored windmill in Santorini.

Who wouldn’t want to stay in such a place? And even if you’re not looking to stay in someplace quite so over the top, you can still find really nice spaces right in the heart of expensive cities for quite a bit less than you’d pay for a hotel in the exact same area — and with more amenities, like a kitchen or an actual separate bedroom.

We especially liked the boot house in New Zealand and all of us around the office want to stay at some of these places. They look very enticing.

Airbnb is something of a wonderland. You could create quite a unique getaway just in the properties, staying only in the places with a lot of charm and unique settings. Or you could even try a tiny house and see if you would actually enjoy joining the tiny home living trend. Since it’s a major lifestyle change for most people, diving in through Airbnb might be a good way to try it out.

On the other hand, a castle would be at the other end of the spectrum. You could get a party together to stay and split the cost in order to make staying in such a huge space affordable for everyone. (Or if you wanted to join the less popular living-in-a-giant-Scottish-castle trend, you could check that one out as well.)

The options on Airbnb are almost without limit. If you haven’t checked it out yet, try it out on your next trip and tell us what you think. Or if you’ve already stayed in an Airbnb, let us hear from you. Did you like it? Would you recommend it to friends? Or are you happier in a hotel? Leave us a comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Andy Hawkins (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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