Podcast #114 Uncut — The LoFi Video Version

I finally found a way to produce a video version of the podcast without a huge amount of post-production work. I put my GoPro camera on top of my Zoom H4n recorder and hit Record.

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Podcast #114 — Public Transit to Airports, Requiem for SkyMall, Awful Winter Travel

Is Our Plane Behind That?

Is Our Plane Behind That?

Recorded at the JW Marriott in New Orleans together with a GoPro video capturing all the unedited bits. We go deep in a comparison of public transit and drive times to US airports, shed a tear for SkyMall magazine, and marvel at the stack of lost Android tablets at American Airlines’ ORD lost-and-found. We talk about what has been an awful start to the travel year in the US east of the Rocky Mountains, and wrap up with some observations about how hotel perks have become more important than points. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #113 — 2014 was a Bad Year to Fly; Restaurant Trends Go Local

Authentically lacking seating

Authentically lacking seating…

Can frequent travelers just write off 2014? We all knew we were abused by the airlines with high prices and lousy service. I guess it’s somewhat comforting to know that analysis of 2014’s data proves us right. I’m not sure there’s much more we can do than enjoy the little things and hope 2015 is better. Once we get to where we’re going, the restaurant food has gotten a lot better and with trends toward local sourcing and flavors, a lot more interesting.  We also talk about a couple pieces of hotel industry news — hoping that IHG’s acquisition of Kimpton doesn’t screw up the “anti-chain”, and continued puzzlement as to why Marriott wanted to block your WiFi hot spots. You can listen to all this and more using the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking below.

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Travel Tips — Holiday Airport Etiquette

Don't rub it in that you're going some place warm for Christmas

Don’t rub it in that you’re going some place warm for Christmas

Coming into the holiday travel season, every travel news outlet publishes their top travel tips. Rather than repeat the typical “pack light” and “give yourself extra time” nostrums, I decided to create an advice list of what’s really the problem during holiday travel — airport etiquette.

The challenge of holiday travel isn’t necessarily the crowds; it’s the crowds of what some road warriors might call “clueless” travelers. I think “amateur” is certainly a more charitable and probably more accurate term. So for those amateur travelers or for those who’ve been off the road for a bit and need a refresher, here’s a list of etiquette tips that some holiday time reinforcement…

  • Let’s start at the front of the airport with the security line. The TSA is pushing PreCheck. You may get it on your boarding pass or a TSA person may randomly pull you out of the regular line and route you to the PreCheck line. It’s your lucky day! Don’t spoil it, though, by not knowing the PreCheck rules. Put your phone away and read the signs — don’t take off your shoes, don’t pull your liquids out, keep your jacket on, …. Read the signs and don’t slow it down for everyone else.
  • If getting to your gate involves a moving platform or an escalator, stand to the right because people are walking — usually quickly — on the left. Traveling with others, you’ll naturally want to stand abreast, but then you’re blocking everyone else. Don’t do it unless you want to get run over.
  • When you hit the airport Starbucks for your pre-flight coffee, remember that this isn’t your neighborhood Starbucks run by friendly Starbucks-trained baristas. It’s run by Sodexo which doesn’t care quite as much about coffee training. And they’re not quite as efficient. And there are usually a lot of people behind you in line. Keep your order to 3 adjectives or less. Tall skim latte is good. The half-decaf 3-pump no-foam vente vanilla latte — not so much.
  • While queuing at the gate, don’t try to cheat on the boarding. Everyone’s looking at each others boarding passes, and airlines are telling their agents to get more strict. On almost every flight, I’ve seen the boarding agent direct someone over to the wall of shame to wait for their boarding group to be called. Don’t embarrass your family. Wait your turn.
  • And if you’re using an electronic boarding pass on your smartphone, turn off auto-rotate. If you don’t, odds are that your screen will start oscillating between portrait and landscape while you’re trying to get it on the electronic reader. You’ll delay the boarding line and quickly earn the enmity of your seatmates — even before you sit shoulder-to-shoulder with them for 2-4 hours.
  • And finally, and this is a big one, don’t put your small bag in the overhead. I don’t care if you checked a bag. Don’t be that person who puts a purse or a briefcase in the overhead. Show a little holiday spirit — put ‘em under the seat in front of you and leave space for one more roller board for the poor urchins in Groups 3, 4 or 5. When that person’s bag doesn’t get dropped on a tight connection through DFW, and they’re able to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner in something other than day-old sweats, they’ll thank you.
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Podcast #112 — Holiday Airport Etiquette; Travel Tax Pile-Up

That's Gonna Make for a Long Walk

Need More Taxes To Fix This

Here’s a new episode to keep you occupied if you’re stuck in a line somewhere while traveling Thanksgiving week. There are tips for the non-frequent traveler on how to avoid major airport faux pas and a review of how travel taxes will soak you when you get to your destination. We also talk about a high-tech suitcase that’s blown through its Indiegogo funding campaign, hackers emptying out Hilton Honors accounts, and an overseas WiFi session that emptied out someone’s wallet.  You can listen to all this and more using the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below. 

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Podcast #111 — Seatback Recline Wars; Craft Beer Tourism

Just a little snug for the next 14 hours...

It’ll be a bit snug for the next 14 hours…

I tried to hold back, but I just couldn’t. I have to finally weigh in on the seatback recline wars. I’m stunned at the number of people who convert a couple of inches of seat movement into some sort of Manichean morality play. From that you can probably guess where I come out on this. On a much lighter side, I talk about finally taking Atlanta’s MARTA subway from the airport and tagging on some beer hunting to some Midwest business travel. All this and more  at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below. 
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Podcast #110 — Regional Jets Ruining My Life; Visa Hassles

Plane is here; no mechanics in sight. Do I feel lucky?

Plane is here; no mechanics in sight. Do I feel lucky?

Even though the weather hasn’t been bad this summer, I’ve endured a rash of flight cancellations. Digging deeper, it’s been regional jets operated by small airline “partners” that’s causing me grief. Service to mid-sized cities has moved to regional jets, making travel to these cities more problematic. Traveling to China or India can catch US travelers by surprise with their visa requirements. We also talk about how fast airlines respond to Twitter messages, airport “wall huggers”, carry-on luggage throwback, and I haven’t flipped through a Skymall magazine in months. All this and more  at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below. 

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Podcast #109 — ‘Round the World in 8 Days; Beijing Mass Transit

I confess... I'm carrying a concealed Totes

Yes, I’m carrying a concealed Totes

Just when I’d reset my body clock after a trip to Beijing, I headed off for an 8-day around-the-world itinerary. It was 44 hours of flight time, setting a new personal record for stupid travel. I learned a few new things along the way — Singapore Air flight attendants get grumpy when you don’t let them serve you, and Manila Airport considers a Totes umbrella as lethal as a box cutter.  We also talk about the reason Beijing has scored second to last in taxi service, the difference between United and Delta Twitter service, the secret to buying Bose headphones, and my switch from an iPhone to Android. All this and more  at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below. 

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Podcast #108 — Worst Travel Experiences Ever

Please, make it stop!

Please, make it stop!

We look back on a brutal travel winter with stories about how driving instead of flying probably wasn’t the best idea, and a completely awful United flight that ended up with a drive — but not by choice. I also talk about my recent trip to Beijing, China and my plans for a round-the-world-in-8-days itinerary to India and Manila.  All this and more  at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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Podcast #107 — Serious About Hotel Reviews; TSA Gets Something Right!

Another Monday, another plane…

Brushing aside the cobwebs to make my way back into the TravelCommons studios, we talk about the growing importance of TripAdvisor hotel reviews and the checklist I walk through when writing a review. I also continue to gush about the TSA’s PreCheck program, even if this autumn’s rapid expansion seems a bit rough-&-ready at times. A listener lists out the critical travel apps on his Android smartphone and I talk about being stalked by an airline on Twitter.  All this and more  at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

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