Podcast #116 — Traveling Thru Japan; Luggage Trends

Lost Without Translation

Lost Without Translation

Back behind the microphone after an extended summer break highlighted by a two-week family vacation in Japan. We talk about traveling in Japan. It was a fantastic time, though we were lost without translation at times. But with the US dollar buying 124 yen, it was the right time to go. We also talk about frustration in using frequent flier miles, trends toward prettier and higher tech luggage, and a connoisseur of scrambled eggs. 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 #115 — A Decade of TravelCommons

Been on Duty for 10 Years...

Been on Duty for 10 Years…

Hard to believe that I’ve been prattling along for 10 years. Looking back, I see that I’ve become less of a TSA-hater, but am still pretty clear-eyed about the tediousness of the frequent travel experience. It’s tough to pack 10 years into a 30-min episode, but I think I’ve cherry-picked some good snippets. Before that, I talk about spending Semana Santa (Holy Week) in southern Spain and “smart luggage.” The listener mailbag continues the conversation about mass transit to airports. 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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What’s In My Briefcase – 2015?

My Briefcase – Feb 2006

My Briefcase – Feb 2006

It’s spring cleaning time, which for me means it’s time to wade through my briefcase. Within every frequent traveler is the desire to carry everything you could possibly need on the road — to make your briefcase into the road warrior version of Batman’s utility belt, letting you amaze your travel companions by pulling out just the right thing to solve any travel problem. Great for the ego; tough on the back. You’re always prepared, but you’re always dragging up the rear because you’re schlepping the heaviest bag or TSA is pulling you for secondary screening because all your wires make them suspicious.

You need to hit the right balance between weight and need — what do I need all the time vs. what can I buy or borrow for the couple of times I may need it?

My Briefcase – Apr 2015

My Briefcase – Apr 2015

Technology makes up most of the weight. Looking back over my briefcase dissections in 2006 and 2011, there’s always a laptop  — going from a 3.6 lb 12-in ThinkPad in 2006, to a 2.4 lb 11-in MacBook Air in 2011, to a 2.8 lb 12.5-in ThinkPad today. An iPad appeared in the 2011 walkthrough. It replaced books, magazines, and printed out documents, but it couldn’t replace the laptop. In 2015, the full-sized iPad has been bumped by a smaller Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro — an inch smaller and half the weight. I use it to read and watch videos, though when I force myself to leave my laptop home on vacation, the Microsoft Office for Android tablet apps let me sneak in some document reviews while the family sleeps. A Verizon WiFi hot spot pays for itself when I’m trying to pump out that one last e-mail in the airport or sidestepping overloaded hotel WiFi.

And there’s always been a phone, but here we can see a bit more evolutionary progress — from a Motorola V551 flip-phone to a iPhone 4 to an HTC One. The iPhone let me ditch the U2-themed iPod that was in the 2006 briefcase while the front-facing speakers on the HTC One made a Jawbone Jambox redundant.

Nothing has replaced my Bose noise cancelling headphones, though. No self-respecting frequent traveler is seen on a plane without them — even if they’re not plugged into anything. After I wore out the original QC-2’s, I upgraded to the QC-15’s. The old DJ in me prefers the over-the-ear models.

What’s stayed the same? Mostly the non-technology things — the Moleskine notebook, a random selection of pens, the semi-transparent folder for the few expense receipts that don’t get e-mailed to me, a bottle of ibuprofen and Zyrtec tablets and, perhaps most importantly, a tin of wintergreen Altoids to counter dry mouth when I fall asleep in a plane — a very common occurrence.

The newest addition to my briefcase? A bottle opener. I just don’t understand why have hotels taken bottle openers out of the rooms right when the craft beer revolution made them a critical necessity.

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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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