Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘airport’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

Border

New TSA security regulations

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

cell phone
Is your cell phone charged?

It will need to be going forward. In order to continually protect US borders, TSA has added an additional security regulation at certain overseas airports on inbound flights to the US. TSA agents might ask you to power on any electronic or battery-powered devices in front of them that you bring through airport security, including cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. This is to demonstrate the item’s functionality. This new security regulation is focused on intercepting explosives that could be disguised as electronic devices. If you are asked to do this and your device does not have power, you will not be allowed to bring it through security.

Moral of the story – make sure all of the electronic devices are fully charged before you head to the airport.

How to Make the Most of Your Airport Layover

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

-by Erin

Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but despite the savings, many travelers will pay more to avoid the extra time in the airport. Can we blame them? The thought of sitting around in an airport for six hours is only vaguely more enticing than a dental appointment. And who would want to prolong their travel time more than necessary, especially when beach side hotel in Hawaii or a South American New Years cruise awaits at the end of the journey?

But despite their reputation as a necessary evil, layovers don’t have to mean endless hours of watching the clock and waiting for your Amazing Journey to start. In fact, a layover can be a memorable part of your trip and, dare we say it, fun. Instead of killing time filling out crossword puzzles and browsing the bookstore (there are only so many hours you can spend flipping through magazines you haven’t purchased before you’re asked to leave), why not dine on dishes created by celebrity chefs, take a mini-excursion to a local city or burn some calories in a fitness center?

Leave the Airport, See the SightsphpThumb-6

Airports that offer fast and affordable transportation to the cities they serve are the best places for an airport layover adventure. In cities like Amsterdam, Sydney, Washington D.C., Chicago and London, travelers can easily take public transportation from the airport to the city center and spend a half-day exploring.

For best results, sketch out a rough itinerary ahead of time. Find out what kind of transportation you’ll need to take to and from the airport (most airport Web sites list this information) and research the locations of attractions you want to visit. You may want to focus on a single attraction or neighborhood to save travel time. Allow plenty of wiggle room for traffic, long airport security lines and other variables.

Work Out

If you’re not shy about folding into downward dog in public, pack a yoga mat and work on your positions at the airport. A few minutes of deep breathing and stretching is a fantastic way to get your blood flowing after a flight. Check your airport’s Web site to see if it offers a yoga or fitness area. Singapore’s Changi Airport has a gymnasium where you can do a few stretches (for a fee), while Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has a meditation center that’s available to travelers at no cost. The quiet corner of an airport lounge also works as a suitable place to do some yoga if your airport doesn’t offer an appropriate facility.

Want to get some cardio in during your layover? AirportGyms.com is a useful Web site where you can search for fitness centers in or around airports in the U.S. and Canada. If there’s no gym in your airport, stuff some sweats into your carry-on bag and go for a jog around the terminals. This is best to do at an airport that offers shower facilities — be considerate of the person who will have to sit inches away from your sweaty armpits on the next flight.

Sleepsleeping

Some travelers think sleeping in the airport is disturbingly analogous to sleeping on the street (especially during an overnight layover), while others have no qualms about catching some Z’s on a terminal bench. One’s comfort level depends on a number of factors, from personal experience to conditions in the airport in which you’re staying. Many airports have designated sleeping sections or special sleep chairs that make for painless napping. Hong Kong International Airport, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport and Vancouver International Airport are a few major hubs that offer comfy lounge chairs and padded benches on which travelers can fully stretch out.

If you’re planning to spend the entire night on an airport bench, you may be awakened by airport security guards who aren’t fond of travelers setting up camp in public, depending on what airport you’re snoozing in. Stay overnight in the airport at your own risk.

Get a Room

Your eyes are heavy after a seven-hour red eye, but you don’t like the idea of dozing off in public. There’s a solution. Consider paying for short-term lodging, even if it’s for a layover that’s only a half-day or so long — it may be cheaper than you think and well worth the cost.

London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schipol airports all have YOTEL facilities, which are accommodations within the airport terminals inspired by Japanese capsule hotels. A standard cabin can be rented for a minimum of four hours, and comes with a bathroom with shower, a bed, a fold-out desk and a flat-screen TV (all amazingly squeezed into seven square meters).

To get the cheapest rate at an airport hotel, plan ahead as opposed to showing up and requesting a room on the spot. Check rates online for airport hotels before you leave for your trip, and keep an eye out for special rates and other offers. On Hotels.com, we found rates at the Days Inn Airport Best Road, located just 1,600 yards from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for $47 per night plus taxes, including free shuttle service to and from the airport — which is arguably a reasonable price to pay for a few hours of peace and quiet during a layover.

Play a Gamepoker

Pack one or two board games in your carry-on and get your travel companion or a friendly stranger waiting in your terminal to join in on the fun. Computer solitaire doesn’t count; get your face away from that computer screen for half an hour and engage with a real human being — it’s a great way to pass the time. Some good, packable games include Bananagrams, Travel Scrabble and Yahtzee To Go.

Chat with a Stranger

Chatting it up with an approachable stranger at the airport bar, in the lounge or in a restaurant could lead to a short, dull conversation at worst and a fascinating glimpse into a fellow traveler’s experiences at best. Talk to someone waiting near your gate; odds are you’ll both be heading to the same place. If the person is a local or a repeat visitor to your destination, your chat could yield a wealth of valuable vacation tips.

Eat Like a King

Airport food is notoriously bad, but there are definitely some exceptions to this rule. Select airport eateries offer genuine gourmet cuisine, from locally inspired classics to luxurious dishes. Stranded in JFK? Skip the KFC Express and head to La Vie, a French cafe that serves sophisticated fare like sauteed prawns Provencal and sole meuniere. There’s a popular Legal Sea Foods restaurant at Boston Logan Airport where travelers can get the same fresh fruits de la mer as those served downtown.

On the international front, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently set up shop in at London’s Heathrow Airport with a Michelin-starred restaurant cleverly called Plane Food. Travelers in a hurry can pick up a Plane Food “picnic” in a portable shoulder bag and bring their gourmet meal on the plane (warning: may cause jealous seatmates).

Play an Instrumentguitar

The guy who led stranded travelers in a sing-along at Newark Airport became a hero for the moment (and a YouTube sensation) when he saved dozens of passengers from their momentary boredom with his trusty guitar. Entertain yourself and others around you by packing your instrument and playing some tunes. If you’re especially talented, perform next to an upturned hat and use the proceeds to cover your baggage fees.

People Watch

Lots of big cities are famed for their people watching opportunities. In particular, New York comes to mind, and there’s even an amusing Web site, OverheardinNewYork.com, that features snippets of conversation from around the Big Apple. I haven’t found an airport version of this site, but I bet it would be a fabulous read.

With their hodgepodge of interesting characters from every corner of the globe rushing about, airports are the perfect places to conduct casual anthropological research. You’re in a public place, so there’s nothing wrong with eavesdropping on a loud conversation or taking a second look at the 20-something anarchist with tear-drop tattoos on his face. Share the interesting things you see and hear on Facebook (we’d love to read about them).

Original source: Independent Traveler

Airline fees you may not hate

Friday, October 11th, 2013

-by Erin

Within the past few years, passengers have been hit with airline fees for seemingly every part of your trip.  From booking your flight with an actual person on the phone to checking your suitcase to enjoying an in-flight snack, each transaction had travelers opening up their wallet again and again.  It was maddening how things that were once included in your day of travel are now a la carte with additional costs.  With that being said, airlines are now introducing a new slew of fees, but this time passengers might actually like them. Unlike the first generation of charges which dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight. Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning.

Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office. In the near future, airlines plan to go one step further, using massive amounts of personal data to customize new offers for each flier.

Carriers have struggled to raise airfares enough to cover costs. Fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are the reason the airlines are profitable. But the amount of money coming in from older charges like baggage and reservation change fees has plateaued. So the airlines are selling new extras and copying marketing methods honed by retailers. Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding. Delta Air Lines recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell passengers last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom. And just like Amazon.com offers suggested readings based on each buyer’s past purchases, airlines soon will be able to use past behavior to target fliers.

Other airlines are experimenting with tracking passengers throughout the airport. In the future, if somebody clears security hours before their flight, they might be offered a discounted day pass to the airline’s lounge on their phone. Airlines have yet to find the right balance between being helpful and being creepy. So, for now, most of the data is being used to win back passengers after their flight is delayed or luggage is lost. “We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn’t something to endure, but something they can enjoy,” says Bob Kupbens, a former Target executive and Delta’s current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.

Southwest has held off charging for most checked bags. But it sells plenty of other add-ons. Recently, it introduced a way for people at the back of the boarding line on some flights to cut to the front for $40. Airlines now alter fees based on demand. United Airlines used to sell its Economy Plus extra legroom seats for one price per route. Today, aisle seats cost more than middle seats; prices are higher on popular flights. Airlines are also starting to bundle items. Passengers purchase items they might not necessarily buy alone; it also simplifies the dizzying array of offers. American offers a package for $68 roundtrip that includes no change fees, one checked bag and early boarding. Delta is experimenting with a $199 subscription that includes a checked bag, early boarding, access to exit row seats and extra frequent flier miles on all flights a passenger takes between now and Jan. 5.

Airlines say the fees bring a sense of fairness to the system. Why should a passenger with a small carry-on subsidize a family of four, checking suitcases? Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with JP Morgan Chase, likens it to a meal at a restaurant. “The sides are not included in the price of a steak,” he says. “Airline ticket prices should reflect the costs incurred by the individual passenger.”

Original article can be found here

Plugged in passengers

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

-by Stacey

“Sir, I’ve already requested that all electronic devices be turned off”
“Wait, hold on, I’m just finishing this email”
“That is anything with an on-and-off switch”
“Please, I’m almost done”
“Sir, now please.”

We’ve all heard this conversation. Sometimes we are the ones having this conversation. We are so connected to our devices that it’s hard to disconnect during flights. Soon it will be a little easier to maintain your tech fix while you travel. You read that right, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is expected to relax restrictions on in-flight devices.

While phone calls, texts, email, and use of Wi-Fi will still be off limits, the FAA is considering lifting the ban of reading tablets, listening to previously downloaded podcasts and music, and watching videos. That way you can keep reading that page-flicker (is that the modern version of the page-turner?) from your home town gate all the way until your arrival.

So read, listen, and watch on, my fair travelers. You may now sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

No more security lines

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

-by Erin
In addition to taking the guess-work out of your travel arrangements, we are happy to share information to help you make the travel process as fast and smooth as possible.  Most of your vacations include a plane ride (or 2 or 3) and with increased safety precautions, security now takes longer and longer.  Not for long – enter Pre-Check!  Pre-Check is a special quick security line that allows you to breeze through while keeping your shoes and belt on, your liquids stored away and your laptop snuggly in your carry-on. How nice is that?

There is an application process but we think it’s worth the work upfront, knowing how much time it will save at the airport. And now, the TSA is expanding its speedy Pre-Check screening program to 60 more airports, in addition to 40 where it was already available. The new airports should have the expedited checkpoint lanes by the end of the year – Click here to see a list of airports that now have Pre-Check.  There is a one-time fee of $85 for five years, to cover a background check and fingerprinting. Click here for more information on Pre-Check.

CONFESSIONS OF AN AIRLINE “BAG THROWER”

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

As one of the busiest travel periods looms, so does one of the greatest travel “wonders of the world” IF! We all wonder if our bags will arrive on time, and if they will arrive in tact. At the airport, we watch our checked bags disappear into that black hole in the wall and hope against all hope that someway, somehow they will miraculously appear on the other side of our travels. If we happen to show up on time!

What goes on behind the curtain?
You might be amazed at how much manpower it takes to get your luggage on plane. Once you leave your bag at the check-in counter, it goes through a series of conveyer belts, where it may or may not be opened and searched by TSA, until it reaches the pier for your departing flight. It is then sorted into carts by one ramp agent who brings it planeside for other ramp agents to load on the airplane. And there’s a lot more than just loading and unloading your bags-there is a lot of other cargo that gets transported by air. Bag Handlers see everything from human remains to mail to fruits and vegetables coming on and off the plane. They’re also the guys directing the plane to its parking position at the gate, securing the aircraft and hooking up the ground power, and driving the push-back tug, ensuring that aircraft do not come in contact with each other.

How do bags get damaged?
It’s obvious, your checked luggage takes a beating. They call it “throwing bags” for a reason. Airplanes only make money while in the air, and no airline wants an airplane on the ground too long. Due to the nature of some aircraft, it would be impossible to turn around a 757 in an hour or less without throwing bags because it’s just faster. On these planes, there are only two long and narrow cargo holds where your luggage goes. One agent puts the bags on the belt loader, which carries it up to an agent inside the cargo hold who throws it 50 feet to the back where another agent stacks all the bags as if it were a game of Tetris. Wheels and handles oftentimes break or crack on impact, and anything fragile inside that is not packed well doesn’t stand much of a chance. Don’t put red wine or alcohol in your suitcase ever. Do not check any fragile items in a soft sided suitcase, unless it was professionally packaged. Those fragile stickers don’t get noticed very often in the rush of loading bags unless it is an obvious shape, such as a musical instrument. One good thing about the larger aircraft (747, 767, 777, 787, etc.) is that they are all loaded by machines. Your bags are just put in a can and that can is loaded on the plane by machine so there is no bag throwing. Theoretically there’s a better chance of your bag coming out unscathed if you fly on one of those jets.

How do bags get lost?
Sometimes the airport code is read incorrectly and it gets put in the wrong cart and brought to the wrong plane. Someone might mistake VCE for NCE or PDX for PHX. It happens, but not that often. It’s always important to ensure you have the correct destination on your bag tag and to keep your receipt. Secure your contact information on the outside and inside of the bag in case the outside tag falls off. If your bag ends up in a different destination, it won’t get re-routed until it reaches wherever it went and is scanned. Scanners are all wireless now and don’t always work due to bad connections or getting locked up. If time is of the essence, your bag may not get scanned. Also, if you have a tight connection, you may be able to make it, but your bag may not. On smaller regional flights, many times bags are not loaded or taken off due to weight and balance limits. This is for safety reasons and ensures a safe take off and landing weight. So ideally, try to avoid those planes.

What kind of suitcases get damaged least? The most?
Cheap bags that you buy at the discount store break very easily. If your handle is sewn on or is very flimsy, it’s probably going to break. If you travel a lot or pack heavy, make sure you buy a quality, durable bag. Hard-sided suitcases will get less damage, but also look for well-designed handles that are attached with rivets and some sort of protection around the wheels. Speaking of wheels, the best bags to get are the “spinners” with four wheels on the bottom. We like these because we don’t have to throw them when loading. We just roll them down the belly of the plane so your bag and its contents will suffer much less damage.

Should I worry about theft?
There are no cameras inside the belly of the plane. Always use the TSA-approved locks to lock a suitcase. This not only prevents someone from easily taking something, but also keeps the bag closed securly. Bag Handlers see open bags all the time because the zipper just started coming apart, and yes, things do fall out of these open bags. Sometimes, they see it and can put whatever came out back in the bag it came from, but sometimes there are just random items strewn around the belly. If it’s a random piece of clothing or a shoe, those won’t go down the baggage claim belt too well and just get discarded eventually.

How can passengers prevent their bags from going astray?
The main thing to do is keep your bag tag receipt so you can track your bag. If it didn’t get scanned on the flight, it will get scanned eventually when it reaches a station. Also, try to plan sufficient ground time for your bag to make its connection. Thirty minutes isn’t always enough at a big airport like Atlanta.