01/10/2014

Remembering 2013: The Year of Trip Delay

In 2014, let's hope we all get to see more of this - and less of the groud, held by trip delay or trip cancellation. How do you combat trip delay?Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? It all depends on which airline you flew the most in 2013.

At the beginning of 2013, on the conclusion of my first mileage run, I wrote about how 2013 might go down in history as the year of trip delay and trip cancellation. Come to find out, I wasn’t wrong – and the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Blog agrees with me. At a whole, of the airlines tracked by the Wall Street Journal and FlightStats, only 78% of flights were on time in 2013 – down a total of 2% from the year before. At the high end of that statistic, the number of flights delayed in excess of 45+ minutes increased 13%, and cancelled flights jumped 15%. You can read the entire report, and find out which airlines performed the best, on The Middle Seat at the Wall Street Journal.

So what is to blame for 2013 being known as the year of trip delay? Many of the airlines blame 2013 returning to normal weather patterns as part of the problem for the increase in trip delay and cancellation. Additional problems include systematic problems within airlines (as a result of mergers and acquisitions), as well as problems in scheduling. After having a year of good weather in 2012 (save a couple of major incidents), 2013 was heavily affected by weather situations, resulting in trip delay & cancellations. Some good news did come out of this report, however: the Department of Transportation reports less passengers complained about service, and less passengers got involuntarily bumped from flights.

With this behind us, what do we have to look forward to in 2014? If last year was any indication, we’re going to see a lot more trip delay and trip cancellation in 2014 as well. The polar vortex didn’t help us get this year off the ground with any ease, and 2014 will also see the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. If we learned nothing else from the United-Continental merger, we’ve learned that mergers always result in pains felt by the end travelers.

So how can you keep your travels flowing smoothly in 2014? Here’s how I plan on managing my flying time, and doing my part to keep my personal trip delay statistics down in the New Year:

  • Pack Light and Often
    Last year, necessity forced me to pack my bags and occasionally check a bag on my adventures. Lucky for me, it was free as a result of having status across many different airlines. Unlucky for me, it cost me at least one suitcase. In 2014, I plan on carrying on luggage at every given opportunity. This allows me to be flexible with my plans, change flights as soon as there are delays or cancellations, and not worry about having to getting to my destination without my luggage. Plus, with PreCheck, I’m allowed to keep my laptop and liquids in my suitcase, making the security transition easier and faster.
  • Plug in my Trusted Traveler number at every opportunity
    Last year, the best thing I did for my travels was getting my NEXUS card.
    Not only does this give me Global Access status when traveling internationally, but it also gives me access to the TSA PreCheck program, allowing me to get through the security checkpoint quicker and easier. How does this help with trip delay? If I have to switch my flights and switch terminals, then I’ve got an easier transfer through terminals (if I need one). Plus, a quicker run through security reduces the chances of creating my own trip delay.
  • Go with the flow
    Sometimes, despite our best planning, we can’t get around trip delay. And it’s frustrating to not be able to get through a trip delay and get to our destination (or home) on time. This is why I always plug extra time into my trips, allowing plenty of time between connections, as well as extra days should anything get misconnected along the way. By allowing extra time on my connections, I can ensure on-time connections everywhere I go – even when that means having to suffer a trip delay or flight cancellation.

Hopefully, your travels will be a little more successful than mine in 2014! Is trip delay something you’re worried about in the New Year? Or are you going to travel despite the risks of getting stranded? Let me know in the comments below!

12/31/2013

A Look Back at the World of Travel in 2013

For what its worth, I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to not only read this blog, but also reading this ALT text! I hope you enjoyed this look back at my big stories of 2013. And hopefully, you'll come back for more misadventures in 2014! Ack!2013 was a rather incredible year in the world of travel, wasn’t it? During this year we saw some of the best – and worst – that comes with taking the roads, the skies, and the seas. We’ve seen companies come together, passengers divide on how to get to their destination, and storms that have twisted and snarled traffic across the United States. Personally speaking, my 2013 has been a rather successful campaign in retrospect: nearly 28,000 miles traveled in the air, with 46 total flights – which turns into the equivalent of three days in the air.

In looking back at the year, there were a lot of stories that really stuck out to me for many different reasons. Here are the stories that topped my list of big events in 2013:

In 2014, may our travels be safe, healthy, and may we all get to see much more of the world than we have before. What were your biggest travel stories of 2013? What would you include on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

12/23/2013

The last minute gift giving guide for the traveler in your life

Sorry, friends - back to the stock photos. I'm kind of in a hurry to get out of here - for the next three days will be spent racing, watching movies, and with the merriment of friends! Good news is, however, that I will be back on a plane in a couple of days - which means more unique traveler photos in 2014!In two days, many people around the world will take a day of pause to observe the holiday season with the company of friends and family, festive foods and the exchange of gifts. Even I will not take the opportunity to step on an airplane, and instead observer the holiday amongst my inner sanctum.

Odds are, you might have someone very similar in your life. Be they a student traveler who spends their time between school and the rest of the world, or the business road warrior who spends at least one week a month in the air or across the land, these might be some of the most difficult people to shop for. What do you give the person who never seems to stand still very long?

The good news is that we crazy travel types aren’t that hard to please. In fact, a simple gift can go a long way for the traveler in your life, and it won’t cost you a terrible amount of time or money to bring a smile to your wayward friends and family. Here’s some of my picks for great last-minute gifts for those just flying in on the last sleigh flight of the night:

Gift Cards
Yes, this may seem like a passé gift, but you have no idea how useful gift cards can be to the everyday traveler. While in our hands, gift cards can be cumbersome and collect rather quickly, a gift card can be a huge value to someone looking to stay at their favorite hotel, or take their preferred flight overseas. Plus, in some situations, gift cards can also be applied to upgrades and other fees faced by travelers. And for a student, using a gift card to wipe out some of the extra baggage fees can be a huge deal when going to their next destination.

Charging Accessories
One of the biggest frustrations that I find is not being able to charge all of my devices when I travel – be it my phone, my tablet, my laptop (either of them), or anything else I can come up with to put together. I think the hardest one of all is my phone – which also doubles as my e-mail device, camera, social media machine, and music player when out on the road. For the traveler in your life, a small device charger can be a lifesaver. Many of them are battery operated, and have at least one USB port on board. When there’s no power outlet around (like on the airplane), a portable USB charger can make the difference between a short flight and a very, VERY long flight.

Power Strip/Surge Protector
I’m pretty sure you’re now asking yourself: “Holiday gifts are supposed to be cool and fun. What’s cool and fun about a power strip?” While this just might be another necessity of your office space, the power strip can be a lifesaver for travelers of all shapes and sizes. Airports (and even airport lounges, for that matter) are not world renowned for their power outlet access. So what do you do when you find one? Plug in a power strip, and enjoy the benefits of the power outlet. This way, not only can you charge your items, but also have several outlets available for those around you to enjoy as well. Instant win for everyone involved!

On behalf of all of us at Travel Insurance Services, I hope you all have a safe and festive holiday season. What are you hoping to get as a gift this season? Let me know in the comments below!

12/12/2013

Does Travel Insurance Add Up In Winter?

I don't care how you decorate it - mostly because this is the last line I want to be standing in when I get to the airport. Lucky for me, travel insurance may help me out when I've got a trip delay of more than 12 hours, or am forced to cancel a trip because I got frostbite. Don't laugh - it MAY have happened to me once.The pure, white snow falls gently upon the frozen pond. With the descent of Persephone, Winter has taken grasp on the world. The pain is not just felt by Demeter, and those who work with the harvest. As the holidays onset, so too is the sting felt by travelers near and far.

Wait – travelers near and far in the world of Olympus, feeling the sting of winter travel? Yes, you read that all correctly. At the end of the year (and into the next), weather has a huge effect on how – and when – we travel back and forth across the world. Rain and wind on the west coast, and snowstorms in the east can put a huge damper on getting where we want to go - especially when they lead to trip delay and trip cancellation.

Which is what lead me to my surprise when I picked up my copy of the Los Angeles Times last week (yes, I still read the LA Times – even in Central Ohio). The LA Times quoted a report from the National Consumers League, stating that travel insurance is usually a bad deal.

No, there’s not a whole lot of snow on the West Coast – but there’s still always the potential for storms, winds, and rain to wreak havoc on winter travel. Does nobody out there remember the El Nino storms of 1993 that left a wake of damage and delays in California? I do - and the entire winter I spent in the dark as a result thereof...but that's another story entirely.

What I do agree with the National Consumer League on is that a travel insurance plan purchased directly through your travel provider (such as an airline) might not be the one you want. Those plans are written with the airlines in mind - meaning you might not be getting all of the benefits that you are paying for. Instead, many travel experts (myself included) always recommend that you go through a third party when looking for a travel insurance product. Especially during the winter months - when storms can threaten to cancel your trip very quickly.

Why look at a third party product? Third party products (like Travel Insurance Select) offer benefits for events (such as winter storms) that other insurance plans may not necessarily offer. If you purchase before a storm is named, or an event is identified, then you may be able to recover at least part of your travel investment. Additionally, purchase far enough ahead of time and you may qualify for the Cancel for Any Reason benefit – allowing you to do just what the name implies. If you don’t want to go out in the cold, or fight against the storm, then simply cancel your trip, and you may be able to recover at least some of your costs. It beats the high cancellation fees that your airline might charge you.

What else can a third party plan offer you? Your travel insurance plan may also offer you benefits in the event your flight is delayed 12 hours or more, your trip is interrupted midway due to an event, or your baggage is lost or destroyed on the way there or back home. Additionally, if you’re traveling outside of your home country, your third party plan may include medical benefits and emergency evacuation. Which I certainly hope doesn’t happen to you, these benefits can be great to have should you need them.

Yes, the sting of winter is setting in on the world. Demeter’s sadness is felt by us all. Especially us who try to brave the cold rain and snow for winter travel. But not considering travel insurance as part of your winter travel regimen is like Icarus flying too close to the sun. An ounce of prevention today can make your winter travels that much smoother.

How do you prepare for winter travels? Do you consider travel insurance as a part of your winter travels? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

12/09/2013

Brace Yourself: Winter Trip Delay is Coming...

I had a great meme here about bracing yourself because winter is coming. The suits, however, didn't agree with me that it was as entertaining as I thought it was. So here's a picture from one time where a giant snowstorm forced me into a 4-hour trip delay on an airplane. Now you know why winter travel always equates trip delay and trip cancellation in my mind.Okay, the title is a misnomer. Winter trip delay is already here. I believe we discussed this right around Thanksgiving time?

None the less, winter storm season is now officially in full effect. Over this immediate weekend (the weekend of December 7-8, 2013), thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed due to winter storms. And on Monday, December 9th, USA Today is reporting nearly 3,000 flights are delayed or cancelled as a result of winter storms. And the storms and situations aren’t just isolated to certain parts of the United States: major hubs like Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, and Chicago are suffering the worst in delays, creating major trip delay log jams in places like Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Greater New York (JFK/LaGuardia/Newark). As airlines start trying to play catch-up, there’s not a whole lot we can do except brace ourselves – for winter trip delay is coming.

While I feel that I write about this every winter season, the message remains entirely relevant. Winter storms, at their worst, can be unpredictable, and create some very instable conditions for traveling across any method. Regardless of whether you’re taking a road trip, running on a train, or taking to the skies, winter weather can force you to delay your departure, your arrival, and can entirely change your situation once you get where you’re going.

Until we complete work on the weather control device straight out of our favorite Science Fiction movies (the one from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my favorites), I’m afraid that we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to winter trip delay and trip cancellation. However, there are things that we can do – before our trips, at the airport, and after we get back – to make sure our winter adventures are as smooth as possible. Here’s what I recommend when planning around winter travel:

  • Plan for extra time in your trip
    During the winter months, I’ve grown very accustomed to adding extra time into my trip – be it traveling the day before to make sure I get there for the meeting, or planning on not being into work until the day after I’m scheduled to get back. By building extra time into my trip now, I can better buffer myself for trip cancellation or trip delay – and be flexible if the opportunity comes up to miss a flight for an airline credit.
  • Know the alternate routes
    This is just good advice regardless of how you’re getting to where you’re going. Sometimes, the most direct route just isn’t available by any means: be it weather related or otherwise, the most direct route can breed trip delay and trip cancellation woes. Wherever you’re going, know if there are alternate routes and routings available to you, and how to work those into your schedule. Taking the long way about can save you some time ultimately, and also assure that you get to where you’re going on your time.
  • Reach out for help
    Sometimes, despite our best planning around factors such as the weather, we’re just not able to make everything come together. And when you’re standing in a huge line at the airport, the last thing you seem to want to do is wait for half an hour to figure out what to do next. When you’re stranded, those friendly(?) faces at the desk can be your biggest assistance in figuring out what to do under a trip delay. If you don’t want to stand in line, there are other options available to you: frequent travelers can try the airline lounge for assistance, while others might go to Twitter to get help from the airport directly. Shaking a hand instead of a fist might be the ticket to get you out of your winter travel situation.
  • Consider travel insurance for winter travels
    In all seriousness, travel insurance plans can come in handy when considering your winter travel options. In the event you have a trip delay, or are forced to cancel your trip due to extenuating circumstances, travel insurance may be able to assist in some of your costs. From benefits for extra charges to lost luggage, travel insurance may be able to assist you in the midst of the winter travel season. Plus, if you don’t want the hassle of purchasing travel insurance for every trip, an annual plan might be better suited for your needs.

While we can’t control winter storms and the trip delay that comes with them, we can control how we manage the situation. And a little planning and management now can help you get to where you’re going when you do travel. How do you manage trip delay or trip cancellation in the height of winter storms? Let me know your plans in the comments below!

12/02/2013

Cyber Monday 2014 in Travel: Escaping Winter on the Cheap

Yes - more generic clipart! What did you expect me to put in here? Stacks of money raining down from the rafters? While it might feel like that when you book your Cyber Monday deals...I thought this would be a better fit for the space. Next blog, I'll use something from the personal archives.The American Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end to much fanfare of turkey and football. I don’t know about you, but this year I had a lot to be grateful about: aside from health, happiness, and my needs being taken care of, I’ve also earned status at three hotel chains, two airlines, and one rental car company. A lot of elite benefits to be thankful for this year!

But after Thanksgiving comes those now infamous sales to ring in the consumer holiday season. I’m talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And today, there are plenty of opportunities for travelers to cash in on discounts for travel at the end of this year and into next. They may not be as good as the Wiederoe mistake fares put up earlier this month, but the discounts can still add up! Here are some of my favorites I’ve found across the internet so far this Cyber Monday 2014:

Flights: Looking to fly away for the holidays? Southwest Airlines is offering select $100 fares (one way) for travel on December 24 & 25, as well as December 31 and January 1, 2014! The entire list of $100 (or less) fares can be found by clicking here.

Frontier Airlines is also offering a 15% discount on flights purchased today through their website on travel between January 16 and March 15, 2014. Use the code CYBER15 when you book. Click here to read more about it on the Frontier Airlines website.

Virgin America is also offering discounts on flights booked today as well – up to 20% on flights booked between December 18, 2013 and March 6, 2014. Use the promo code GAMEPLANE when you book. Click here to read more at the Virgin America website.

Hotels: Once you book the flight, you need a place to stay, right? Lucky for you, there are also great deals to be had on hotels as well! Marriott, for example, is offering a 30% discount at over 300 hotels in the United States between December 20, 2013 and March 31, 2014. Use the promotional code 16C when you book your travel. Click here to see the promotion on the Marriott website.

Starwood Hotels are also offering a Cyber Monday deal worth noting. For stays between January 26 and April 27, 2014, Starwood is offering up to a 40% discount on travel. For more information, click here to visit their page.

It seems that no matter where you want to go this Cyber Monday, there's a discount for you in the works! Do you plan on taking part in these Cyber Monday deals? Or have you found better deals out on the internet? Let me know where you stand (or what you’ve found) in the comments below!

(Ed. Note: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product, service, or brand mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

11/26/2013

Winter Weather and Holiday Travels: Too Soon for 2013

Yes, this was the mess I was greeted by on December 26, 2012, right outside my door. This year, I thought I'd have a little more time before holiday travel season and winter travel season collided. I've got a bad feeling it's going to take more than 8 reindeer and mistletoe to keep me jolly this winter travel season...This year, two seasons that usually create conflict for travelers – both seasoned veterans and holiday travelers – have come together in a perfect storm (no pun intended). And if you’re planning to board an airplane or take to the roads…you may have a bad time.

Thanksgiving week every year marks the beginning of the holiday travel season. And by all indications, this year will be as busy as any other year: AAA projects that 43 million Americans will take to the roads to visit friends and family this week alone, and the U.S. Department of Transportation predicts a 53% increase in all travel. To make matters worse, Winter Storm Boreas is creating a potential travel nightmare for everyone who plans to get on the road or in the air this week. As if the skies and highways weren’t busy enough, the winter storm can only add to the chaos.

It’s already been a hard week for travelers. On Sunday, airlines flying out of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport were forced to cancel hundreds of flights as a result of bad weather in the area. If this is an indication of what else is coming this week, we could all be in for a hard holiday travel season.

None the less, for many, holiday travel is a necessity. Be it traveling to see friends, getting together with family, or just to create a holiday memory for years to come, there’s always some reason or want to get out and see the world during the holidays. And for those who want to make holiday travel part of your plans, there are things you can do before you begin to try and make your travels easier. Here are my tips for surviving both the holiday travel season, as well as the winter travel woes:

1: Know before you go
This may seem like a tip from Travel 101, but it’s very easy to forget in the midst of packing, preparing, and double checking your list. If you’re making your holiday travel by road, make sure that you have your route planned and check for any deviations in the plan. If you’re traveling by air, make sure that you’ve checked your flight statuses, and be prepared if you end up with a trip delay, or a flight gets cancelled. If you’re worried about having your travel affected by the storms, contact your travel provider – in situations where winter weather threatens storms, airlines may allow travelers to change their plans without fees.

2: Be travel friendly
Remember that there’s going to be a lot of travelers on the road and in the air starting now, and not stopping until the end of the year. If you’re going by air, make sure that you know the rules when it comes to packing, baggage allowance, and fees that might arise from checking bags. Additionally, remember the rules for passing the TSA checkpoint – especially the rules about laptops out of bags, and the 3-1-1 liquid rule. For those going on the road, know that you’re not alone: 43 million Americans leaves a lot of cars remaining on the road. Plan for extra time on your travels, as road conditions and traffic patterns may change suddenly and unexpectedly.

3: Prepare for the worst case scenario
Nobody wants a delayed flight. Nobody wants to spend a night in a transit city. But yet, as we work through the holiday travel and winter storm seasons, the worst case scenario can take place. When planning and managing your trips, always be prepared for the potential of baggage loss, trip delay, and cancellations. This can be as simple as adding more time to your travels and packing an extra change of clothes in your bag, to purchasing a travel insurance plan.

How are you preparing for the winter storm season? What are your tips to make it through holiday travels in one piece? I’d love to hear your tips – leave me a comment below with your best ideas!

11/19/2013

The Trip of a Lifetime: Making Air Travel Safer

IMG_1555The final day of Star MegaDo 5 saw our very own charter flight take wings over North America. If you’ve never experienced something like this, let me put it this way: imagine flying on a fully-catered flight with 130 of your best friends and fellow travel enthusiasts, all the while exchanging tips and tricks about how to make the most of your travels. The flight itself was an absolute blast – even though I did get stopped at Customs for a brief amount of time (Pro traveler tip: when asked “Do you have any food to declare…” on your customs form: popcorn and chocolate counts - even if you brought it from the United States), the flight and airport experience was an absolute blast! This will be a flight I’ll be talking about for quite a while to come.

Our travels took us from Toronto to Tuscon, Arizona, where we were treated to a tour of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – otherwise known as the place where military aircraft goes to retire. The tour was an awesome experience, and allowed us to stretch our legs before hopping back on the airplane to our final destination: San Francisco.

At San Francisco, we were treated to a one-of-a-kind hangar experience with United (our public charter carrier), and got to go behind the scenes with their aircraft repair operations. United sees and repairs aircraft of all kinds at the San Francisco facility – and not just mainline aircraft! Many pieces and parts were stripped for our inspection at the hangar – with many specialists there to explain how it all works!

At the hangar, we learned all about how aircraft are kept safe and sound, starting from the ground up. New technology allows for new ways to keep passengers and crew safe at 30,000 feet above the earth. Here’s some of the ways aircraft crews are making sure you stay safe at cruising speed:

Regular maintenance isn’t just for engines and moving parts
When an aircraft comes in for maintenance, it’s not just the moving parts that get inspected. Advanced technology allows for the continued testing of everything from avionics to in-flight entertainment. And in the event that something is detected as malfunctioning, or comes up questionable, maintenance facilities make sure that testing equipment is available, and prepare backups if necessary. This allows them to switch out the bad gear for testing and repair, and keep you flying as scheduled.

Making sure only qualified parts make it to the airplane
Everything on an airplane – from wings and flaps to landing gear – has a finite operational life. So how do they make sure everything runs safe and secure throughout that life? In the case of landing gear, at least two full landing gear assemblies are kept in stock at all times. This ensures that parts are available as needed, and full landing gear can be replaced. With this stock available, maintenance crews can pull apart old landing gear, and replace or rebuild as needed. In the event that a part has reached the end of the road, that part is pulled and destroyed, so that it can’t end up as a compromised part in another plane. Many of those parts can then be recycled into something new.

Recording safety is priority one
In addition to the moving parts and pieces that are managed and rebuilt, the “Black Boxes” (which are now orange, entertainingly enough) get regular maintenance and rebuilding as well. Made out of an incredibly durable construction (so that they don’t get destroyed), the boxes are regularly serviced and switched out as well, to make sure they record what goes on in flight properly. The “Black Box” unit is actually comprised of two units – one that records two hours of cockpit voice communications, and one that records 20 hours of flight mechanical data. In the event of an emergency, these two items can give valuable insight on what went wrong – and how to fix it for future flights.

Going behind the scenes at United gave a lot of insight as to how everything operates at a major airline maintenance facility, and gave me new respect for what it takes to keep hundreds of flights in air every day. Have you had a flight safety experience that was mitigated by ground crew? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!

(Ed. Note: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product, service, or brand mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

10/31/2013

The Trip of a Lifetime: Making Travel More Rewarding

IMG_1390By the end of the Star MegaDo day two, I was already overwhelmed with information. It was like taking a long drink of travel information through a fire hose – and for me, that wasn't a bad thing.

As if the tour of Rimowa wasn’t enough to get any travel aficionado started, day two had us spend the day with both Marriott and Air Canada. On this day, we got to go “behind the scenes” and understand how they do business for travelers of all kinds – from casual travelers passing through, to regular business travelers who call a hotel home for months at a time.

Each of the presentations provided a very unique look into how travel providers operate, especially when it comes to the customer experience. Making sure that each customer has a pleasant experience, from start to finish, is paramount to the success of a trip. Travel providers understand that, and work towards creating an experience for travelers of all kinds. Here’s what I learned about how they try to achieve it:

Study the consumer for best practices
With every customer that flies the skies, or stays at a hotel, that much more information is gathered about the customer’s habits. This allows each of the providers to learn what customers prefer – and don’t prefer – during their travels. Having one bar of soap in your hotel room, or boarding by zones, are all the result of research and feedback by you: the end customer. Of course, your experience may vary. And there might be times where you need an extra bar of soap, a pillow for comfort, or an item not originally provided in service. In those cases:

It’s okay to ask for more
If you need that extra soap, feel free to call housekeeping and ask for more. Within reason, travel providers are more than willing to accommodate your requests. So if you’re in need of that sip of water while flying, or the extra pillow in your room, let the front desk or flight attendants know of your request. In some cases, they can (and want) to help you. Remember to keep your queries as requests and not demands – you’ll always be able to get farther with honey.

Creating a better experience for everyone – not just elite travelers
One of the things that became apparent in both of our sessions on day two were the need to create elite experiences for everyone who steps onto an airplane or into a hotel lobby – whether or not you have status with them. To those means, travel providers are working to make required much more simple – from the check-in process to the boarding process. New, more intuitive software is being installed into kiosks to make checking in less of an ordeal, and checking in on a mobile device or 24 hours ahead of time is also becoming more available for travelers. Of course, for those elite travelers, airlines are continuing to find ways to reward you for your status – with everything from dedicated lines, to (in some airports) entrances that lead you directly to a lounge.

My thanks to Air Canada and Marriott for the behind the scenes look at how they operate with the customer in mind. Have you had a customer service experience that has changed your outlook recently? Or have you noticed your experience getting better or worse? Let me know where you stand – and if the changes you’re seeing are making a difference – in the comments below!

(Ed. Note: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product, service, or brand mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

A Trip of a Lifetime: Preventing Baggage Loss at the Factory

This is an original Rimowa case built in the 1940's - while showing it's age, the structure and functionality of this case remain the same.Day one of Star MegaDO could not have come soon enough. The anticipation of nearly half of a year came to quite a start on Wednesday. The morning turned into an impromptu meet-and-greet in the lobby, as we waited for our (fashionably late) buses. It was incredible to talk about favorite places and destinations with other well-seasoned travelers of the world! In just the hour we waited for the buses, I was entertained with stories of broken lights in first class coming home from Australia, to the splendor of Southeast Asia during the rainy season. I’ve added at least a dozen new destinations to my list!

But the big excitement of the day came in our exclusive tour of the Rimowa North America factory. Known for producing high-end luggage from Germany, Rimowa has also opened a facility outside of Toronto, in order to better serve the North American marketplace. Not only do they make luggage there, but warranty and service repairs also go through this facility as well!

While we couldn’t get pictures inside the facility, we learned a lot about how new luggage is made, and how baggage loss and baggage destruction is being dealt with before a suitcase sees a tarmac – back at the factory.

Better Materials, Better Durability, Less Baggage Loss
As a general trend in the luggage industry, better materials are being put into place in manufacturing to give a suitcase a longer life. Your grandparents’ luggage may have been made with small wheels and hard plastics – which would need to be replaced in a matter of years. Now, suitcases are being made with bigger wheels (think office chair wheel size), and much stronger exteriors: such as polycarbonate, aluminum, and ballistic nylon. This gives the suitcase a much longer life – especially when they’re beaten and battered on the line at an airport.

Better Technology, Less Baggage Delay
It’s not just the materials that are changing. Multiple bag manufacturers are finding new ways to use technology to keep bags with their owners. One manufacturer has begun barcoding their bags for tracking, in the event they get lost from their owners – one call, and the manufacturer can help the owner find the bag wherever it may be. And Rimowa, in collaboration with Airbus and Germany’s T-Systems, is experimenting with “smart bag” technology – a bag that’s equipped with a computer that allows the bag to check itself in, be tracked with a smartphone app, and even give a delivery address in the event that it gets lost along the way. These technologies are keeping baggage delay and baggage loss at a minimum – and helping owners keep moving from point A to point B.

Even with these technologies, baggage delay and baggage loss happens to even the best travelers. But these new methods of making bags with better technology and more durable goods are a strong first step in stopping the problem before it has an opportunity to become a problem. And if baggage delay or baggage losses are still a major concern, many Travel Insurance Services plans offer a baggage delay or loss benefit. Just in case you’re traveling with something you can’t afford to lose.

Are you excited about the new technologies that are changing the way we travel? What do you look for when it comes to getting new luggage? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

(Ed. Note: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product or service mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)