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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

More Travel Gadgets on Great Day Washington

Greetings, dear readers. Apologies for being AWOL, but this new luxury travel gig for Skift is keeping me going 24/7.  But I continue to squeeze in time for my Travel Tuesday gadget guru segments on Great Day Washington. Here's the most recent, which features items like A/Stand, AirHook, Face Cradle and the HydraPak collapsible water bottle. Take a look.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Inside Scoop on Luxury Travel Trends

As I continue to cover luxury travel in depth for Skift, there's little time to write new stories for DailySuitcase. So, dear reader, I provide you with links to a number of recent stories I have written for the leading publication for travel industry insight. Sign up for the Skift New Luxury Newsletter here. 


Where Luxury Tour Operators Are Going Next




BMW and Butterfield & Robinson Team Up



Photo of BMW Welt Courtesy of  BMW Blog


Luxury Tourists are Shopping Around


Beverly Hills, 9021-Oh


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer Travel Tips and Strategies


This week, I appeared on Great Day Washington to discuss summer travel strategies. Here's the recap from the Great Day Washington team.
Veteran travel journalist Laura Powell of The Daily Suitcase joined us with a brand-new series of summer vacation tips just in time for the first long weekend of the season.
Whether you’re leaving town for a Memorial Day cookout or preparing for that destination cruise in July, here are her strategies to ensure smooth sailing on all trips.
1. Plan together
Powell says all travelers should participate in the planning of their vacation time.  Couples, families and groups should pick the destination and plan the itinerary together. This way, uncomfortable feelings and conversations can occur well in advance.
2. Do a test run
If you’re planning an extensive getaway with a new friend or significant other, Powell encourages trying out a ‘test run’ before booking it. A quick weekend trip could provide some insights into your travel partner’s habits and preferences that you may find insufferable over longer stretches.
3. Save money
If you’re planning on flying this season, consider registering for an airline-branded credit card. These earn you rewards and points toward your flights with every purchase.  Powell says this can also shrink baggage fees and help you board earlier.
4. Pack practically
Instead of cramming all your clothes into one suitcase, Powell suggests distributing clothes among one or more bags to avoid an all-too-common disaster.  If you do this, losing your luggage won’t be nearly as consequential.
For more expert travel tips and news, check out Powell’s blog at dailysuitcase.blogspot.com or her luxury vacations coverage for Skift at skift.com.  Want more articles like this? Follow Great Day Washington on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for more! Watch everyday at 9am on WUSA9. 
 
© 2017 WUSA-TV  Hallie Miller

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Buzz on Bee Vacations

Hey, honey. Want to know the buzz on bee tourism? Well, it’s a thing, for starters. Concern over a declining bee population is translating into a buzz over destinations focused on their A-Bee-Cs. Here are five places around the world that are, simply put, the bee’s knees.


Slovenia

The first stop for a traveling apiphiliac (bee lover) is Slovenia. As the only EU country officially protecting its little critters, the southern Euro nation is the Queen Bee. Slovenia is considered the cradle of modern apitherapy and beekeeping has been part of its culture since days of yore. Wanna-bees can visit beekeepers, learn about biodynamic beekeeping and best yet, enjoy restorative apitherapy treatments. What’s on the spa menu? Honey and bee venom massages and beeswax thermotherapy, for starters. There’s also napping on beehives, which apparently is very calming. Snooze while breathing in bee emanations and listening to bee conversations, which drone on and on like white noise. Check out tour operator Apiroutes to get the latest buzz.


France

L’abeilles is the French word for bees. The hunt for l’abeilles (and no, French bees do not wear berets) starts in Paris. The swanky Mandarin Oriental has a penthouse for them. Ooh la la. Rooftop hives house 50,000 very busy bees, who produce honey used by the chef and by bartenders mixing up honey-inspired cocktails. Hotel guests who reuse towels are even rewarded for bee-ing green with a jar of house-made honey. In the countryside, the Rhône-Alpes region is honey heaven. Les Fermes de Marie specializes in holistic spa treatments based on the healing powers of honey. Vendors at the street market in the nearby village of Megève sell an entire range of bee products.

New Zealand

Photo Credit: Isabella Harrex
Honey from down under is creating quite a buzz with its health benefits attracting both the curious and the sweet-toothed. The country has thousands of beekeepers managing more than 500,000 hives. In the North Island’s far north, api-fanatics can go on hive tours focusing on how honey is made and the intricacies of the bee caste system. Bay of Plenty is the home of Comvita, a producer of Manuka—today’s “it” honey. Aside from sampling the sticky stuff at company headquarters, visitors can be a bee in a virtual beehive and take educational tours explaining how bees do their thing. In Dunedin on the South Island, the Blueskin Bay Honey company recently launched two-hour hive adventures enabling visitors to try their hand at beekeeping.

Uganda

Closer to the equator, there are several beekeeping cooperatives in Uganda. Visitors to the Bunyangabu Beekeeping Cooperative in Rubona can learn about the beekeeping process and how it benefits the community. They can also participate in candle-making workshops and honey-tasting sessions. Guests staying at Kyambura Gorge Lodge in Kichwamba can tour the Omumashaka Bee Keepers Cooperative and purchase honey there.

Photo Courtesy of Fairmont Royal York
Canada

In North America, there is a hotel brand of choice for bees. The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto has been the innovator—opening the first hotel rooftop apiary in the world in 2008. That same year, Fairmont became the first luxury hotel brand to develop a brand-wide Bee Sustainable program. The majority of Fairmont Hotels in the United States and Canada now wax poetic about the honeybee hives on their roofs. Resultant nectar is used in Fairmont hotel bars, restaurants and spas.

This story originally appeared here.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Luxury Travel on Skift

Greetings, all. I haven't gone into hibernation. Rather, I have taken on a new gig covering luxury travel for Skift, the ultimate inside baseball publication for the tourism industry. Fear not, I will continue my other work, including the wacky travel gadget segments for Great Day Washington. 

For now, though, here are some links to the stories I've been reporting on during the past month. 

The Fundamentals of Luxury Travel Have Not Changed

Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Isolation is the Next Big Thing in Luxury Travel

Northern Norway
River Cruises Take Action

Aboard AmaWaterway's Ama Lotus
Travel Agents Rethinking the Brick and Mortar Experience

Check out Skift's New Luxury Newsletter every Tuesday for more coverage. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Crazy Travel Products

Looking for the newest crazy cool travel products? You can always depend on Great Day Washington's gadget guru and travel goddess (that's me) to deliver the goods. Watch the hilarious segment here and find product details below. 


Sound + Sleep MINI is a sound machine serving up a choice of 48 different tones, from whales jabbering to the hum of traffic (whatever floats your boat...and puts you to sleep). Why bring along a machine (albeit lightweight) an app will do? Well, for troubled sleepers, apps just might not do, according to the MINI's engineers. Apparently, its patented technology "has the ability to automatically listen to your background for disruptive ambient noise and the MINI responds by remixing sound and adjusting volume to neutralize outside sounds." Take that, apps!   Plus, with the MINI, you can leave your phone far from the bed, making those middle-of-the-night check-ins less likely. Plug it in or use AA batteries. $79.95 


They'll make you look a bit batty, but they work. Occles are designed to keep illumination out, whether you are trying to get shuteye on the airplane or a tan at the beach. The light, durable eye covers are padded with soft rubber, providing your peepers with their very own face pillows. The adjustable wraparound is helpful for sizing, but a little awkward to lean against.  Warning: Although Occles do keep UV rays out, you may end up with raccoon eyes if you sunbathe in them too long. A pair runs about $30.


Wouldn’t it be great to speed through an airport with your carry-on in tow? With a top speed of 12 miles per hour, you can now zoom past your fellow passengers on Villagio of Miami’s Transmover luggage scooter. The included carry-on bag is detachable, so you can throw on your own suitcase or dog carrier. The battery-powered version, with a TSA-approved rechargeable battery, costs around $500 (unless you want a pink one--that costs more). A manual scooter runs in the range of $250.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Plane Sense: How to Complain to Airlines

In light of this week's United incident of very involuntary bumping (and dragging), it's never a bad idea to remind consumers how best to resolve a complaint with an airline when the problem isn't captured on video.
While researching the nooks and crannies of official rules regarding bumping, I came across a great deal of informative information (and if nothing else, information should be informative) at Transportation.gov, the website of the Department of Transportation.
Below is an edited section from the DOT missive called Fly Rights. My comments in blue.
Like other businesses, airlines have a lot of discretion in how they respond to problems (preferably, those responses will not resemble that of Oscar Munoz).  While you do have certain rights as a passenger, your demands for compensation will probably be subject to negotiation and the kind of action you get often depends in large part on the way you go about complaining. 
Start with the airline. Before you contact DOT for help with an air travel problem, you should give the airline a chance to resolve it. As a rule, airlines have trouble-shooters at the airports (they're usually called "Customer Service Representatives") who can take care of many problems on the spot.
If you can't resolve the problem at the airport and want to file a complaint, it's best to write or email the airline's consumer office at its corporate headquarters (and then, if those channels don't work, take to Twitter. See my additional comments near the end of this post). 
DOT requires most U.S. airlines to state on their websites how and where complaints can be submitted. Take notes at the time the incident occurred and jot down the names of the carrier employees with whom you dealt. Keep all of your travel documents (ticket or confirmation, baggage check stubs, boarding pass, etc.). Here are some helpful tips should you choose to write.
  • If you send a letter, type it and, if at all possible, limit it to two pages.
  • Include your daytime telephone number (with area code).
  • No matter how angry you might be, keep your letter or email businesslike in tone and don't exaggerate what happened. If the complaint sounds very vehement or sarcastic, you might wait a day and then consider revising it.
  • Describe what happened, and give dates, cities, and flight numbers or flight times.
  • Where possible, include copies, never the originals, of tickets and receipts or other documents that can back up your claim.
  • Include the names of any employees who were rude or made things worse, as well as anyone who might have been especially helpful.
  • Don't clutter your complaint with a litany of petty gripes that can obscure what you're really angry about.
  • Let the airline know if you've suffered any special inconvenience or monetary losses.
  • Say just what you expect the carrier to do to make amends. The airline needs to know what you want before it can decide what action to take.
  • Be reasonable. If your demands are way out of line, you are rude or sarcastic, or you use vulgar language, at best your letter might earn you a polite apology and a place in the airline's crank files.
The DOT Fly Rights complaint section does not mention Twitter or other forms of social media, so it is a bit dated. That said, I still think it's best to go through private channels of complaint first. If there is not a satisfactory response, then tweet-shaming can sometimes do the trick. 
We all know that Twitter loves snark. But save the snark in complaining on Twitter as a last ditch effort....and only if the error on the part of the airline (or other travel provider for that matter) is egregious. As the DOT suggests, try to be nice and businesslike first, even in a tweet.
Sometimes, though, snark is deserved. Take the case of the Icelandic car rental company that pinned us with damage charges, despite the fact that the driver who hit our (parked) car claimed responsibility in writing. After months emailing with no success, a few well-placed tweets did the trick and we got the company to refund our money. In such a case, Twitter-shaming was justifiable (IMHO). However, I will note that this tactic may not work with U.S. airlines. After all, as we can see from the United incident, airlines can be rather shameless.