Book Next Vacation While Shopping at Costco or Sams Club?

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It’s almost spring, and time to get started planning your next trip. How you elect to book your trip, may prove to be as important as your overall planning process. If you are somewhat flexible, and are willing to go with “packages”, then you may be in for a surprise. It’s called, booking with your  wholesale retail stores. You may think that this idea is a bit outrageous, but  I found that it has merits.

Major wholesale retail businesses like,  Costco and Sam’s Club have gotten into this market. Costco has been doing it for several years, and Sam’s Club just entered the market in 2014. They work the travel services as they do all other services that they bring to their customers. Partnering with hotels, rental car companies, and cruise lines, they are able to bring together significant packages. I can hear the “saving bell ringing.”

I wanted to “test” this out. So I went to each of there websites, and inserted a point of travel.  What I discovered was that Costco has good destinations from which to choose, but they are somewhat limited. There website is easy to Navigate, and if you already know where you would like to go, you can book airfare, hotel, and rental car as one package, or you can omit the airfare, and just do hotel and rental car.

Sam’s Club offers its customers  more options in terms of destinations. Also, they have a feature that I really like. They illustrate your destination and the Sam’s Club price  comparison. I liked this feature because it allowed me to instantly compare the value and the savings that I would receive. It saved a trip of having to close out and to go back and look at that information again. Either way, I think that you will be pleased with what the two retailers have to offer.

What if you are not currently a member? It may be worth it to you to obtain a pass, and look at the travel servies.  Of course, you will be asked to become a member, but if you think that you are getting a good deal, the trip and the membership fee will be worth it.

It’s almost Spring. Get those vacation plans started.

 

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Tipping Apps Now Available

Determining the tip is often an awkward moment. We find ourselves trying to talk with friends, while attempting to determine in our head what the correct percentage is, while at the same time, evaluating the level of service. That may be a lot to do when engaged in conversation.   More often than not often, I’ve noticed that people just appear to “give up” and put down a number that seems appropriate. In fact, they may even remark about it saying… ” I hope this is right.”  This leads to over-tipping or under-tipping. Neither of which is good.

Now, there are apps available for download, which can provide you with exactly what you need in terms of determining the best tip.  These apps are easy to use, and take the pain out of the process. Anything that is easy to use, means that it will be used frequently. Some apps  even calculate tips for tabs that are being “split”. Now, that’s a crowd pleaser!

You just may want to add one of these to your smart phone. Certainly, I don’t want to catch you in a restaurant with your calculator.

http://petergreenberg.com/2015/02/25/travel-tip-tipping-apps-can-help-road/

Those Pesky Hotel Phones, Thing of the Past?

No matter how nice your room is, the hotel phone, which  travelers occasionally need to use to contact staff, is the one area that most of us look at with some level of trepidation. I know that we try to wipe it down, spray it, or simply pray over it in hopes that we don’t end up with a virus left from the previous visitor.

Enter technology.It’s the newest trend in new hotels. Brands like IHG, which now includes the Kimpton Hotels, Delano and Starwoods are all beginning to utilize some form of technology to enhance communications. In some cases, IHG, is using in their  Holiday Inns, apps for travelers that will open the door, thereby allowing the guest to bypass the Front Desk. The Kimpton Hotels use IPhone docking stations, with built in surround sound, to ensure that guests get the full quality of their music in their room.  The Delano in Las Vegas put in an upgraded phone into its posh hotel, that has a USB port on the side, so that you don’t have to look for a place to “plug in”. Starwoods, in some of its newer properties, is experimenting with apps that can allow the traveler to communicate with the Front Desk, room service, valet, make reservations, and control the TV, and music in the room.

These are all tremendous advances, but don’t look for that phone to disappear quite yet. This is just the start of the trend. So keep your wipes handy.

Hotel Rates On the Rise

We know that airfares have increased, and even though gas prices are down, the prices of airline  tickets have not decreased. Now, a recent study shows that hotel rates increased in 2014, and are predicted to continue to rise in coming years.

http://petergreenberg.com/2015/02/13/travel-tip-hotel-rates-are-probably-going-up/

In high demand locations, some rates are already teetering on the  high side, showing per night stays between  $ 750.00-$1,500.00.  And travelers are coming through paying the rates. This is happening because of a supply and demand. It’s starting to feel out of control. Does this mean that we must give up on the type of property or brand that we enjoy,  and essentially downgrade due to rising costs? I don’t think so.

Be willing to express your needs and exercise your negotiation skills. I believe it will require that we begin to think in terms of the total experience, and not how much we are paying per night. If you can work with the manager of the hotel on a room upgrade, spa deal, or some benefit, it will make the cost palatable. In the end, we all just want to have a good time.

Newest Trend: The Lifestyle Brand Hotel is Waiting For You

It wasn’t that long ago that you could identify the type of hotel that you were considering by the brand. The brand had a definitive market, and we as the consumer knew exactly where we fit into it. Then, the hotels began to segment the brands, which made it a bit more interesting, but at the same time confusing.

The newest trend is the “Lifestyle brand,” which essentially means that the particular hotel associated with the brand, has its own unique look and feel of the community, and neighborhood in which it resides. It’s taking us further down the path of personalization. Several major hoteliers have entered this market. Each with their own take on design, culture, and the approach to appealing to the consumer’s needs. Some properties are casual, while others are luxurious. The trick is to find the brand that best fits your personality and lifestyle choices. Here are just a few of the brands that have recently entered the market and are making a difference in the traveling experience.

Lowes with their OE Collection. This collection is initiating in Toronto later this year, and falls more towards the luxury end of the scale, but does a nice job of blending both business and luxury into the experience.  Hilton has elected to get into this market with a new brand called Canopy, that appears to be geared to those who enjoy an easy lifestyle. It will be interesting to see how this  brand does with its Curio brand that was introduced at the end of 2014. Canopy hotels are slated to open around the US later this year.  Marriott has the AC Hotels  which were primarily in Spain, Portugal and Italy but has expanded to New Orleans, Kansas City and Miami.  Hyatt  Centric Hotels are a modern urban experience and are due to open in 2015,  and the Ritz Carlton  has  The Reserve. The Reserves are strategically located  in four (4) locations around the world, with each deploying a lifestyle that is “fabulous.”

So, how do you make your selection. The brands have made it simple. There is something for every taste, price point, to accommodate your travel and vacation needs, from relaxation, high volume activity, to a place to meet with business associates.  The choice is yours. Let your lifestyle be heard. Enjoy.

I will add a menu selection on this blog that will post hotel openings around the world in this category. Check for your favorite.

Leaving a Good Tip Is Not What It Used To Be

Do you consider yourself a “good tipper?” When you’ve been served a nice meal, and your server was polite and attentive, what percentage did you leave?

To ensure that the wait staff are given their reasonable due for services rendered, many restaurants have started to post suggested tip percentages at the bottom of the bill. This keeps people who are not math geniuses from getting out their phones to do the calculations. The percentages are generally shown as 10-15 and 20% respectively. However, some establishments are deciding to use a new digital payment option, which displays tipping percentages of 25-50 and 75%. This is a “game changer.”

The New York Times did an article on just this subject, and I was stunned at this growing trend. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/business/dollar3-tip-on-a-dollar4-cup-of-coffee-gratuities-grow-automatically.html?  I have eaten at incredible restaurants. I appreciate great meals, and the service that is a part of that experience,  but I do not recall having ever  left a tip of that magnitude, and wonder what it would take for me to do so?

As we move into this new era of generous tipping, each diner will need to consider how much the service is truly worth. Are you tipping for the quality of the service, or are you helping to fund the wage gap that exist in the service industry? It will be interesting to see the customer’s response to this issue.Will customers feel okay at plopping down 25%, but resist tipping at the upper ranges? Is this an indication of a creep that we should expect? If so, in the next five years, how much is that final bill actually going to cost ?

I think that we have to separate the issue of paying for the wage gap, and paying for quality service. As customers, if we are doing the latter, then it is incumbent upon the establishment to provide: 1) the environment and atmosphere 2) a creative menu 3) excellently prepared food4) highly trained staff, and last 5) personalized service to incite the customer to want to pay more. It is in this area that I believe is the “sweet spot” for most restaurants. Do something different. Make the experience extraordinary, and memorable. Find a way to do that each time a person comes, and people will be willing to tip more.

Over the next few years, this will continue to be an interesting story to watch and on which to report. I will bring you updates on how this trend evolves and its impact on the traveler.  Stayed tuned.

This is the first in a series, Tuesday Travel Trends. Look for the next trend posting each Tuesday.

Packing Light: Today’s Travel Necessity

 

Packing light has never been easy, and with recent changes in the airline industry, learning to pack light is now more important than ever.  I have to admit that I am not good at packing. I always looked with envy at the people who were gone for two weeks and only had one bag, as I stumbled through the airport with my luggage cart.

The answer to my dilemma came when I stumbled upon packing  organizing systems. They are light weight items that are specifically made to go into your suit case or carry on. They  organize your clothes for easy access, wrinkle-free travel, and economy of space. Several brands  provide organizers including: Eagle Creek, eBags and Travelon .  All provide a host of items from which to choose including: cubes, shelves, squares, envelopes/folders and pouches.

My preference is the large envelope, because you can get so many items into it, and I like the way that you fold the clothing. The envelope holds fifteen (15) items. I bought small pouches for toiletries and jewelry. Depending upon the type of packing organizer that you select, some come with a compartment for dirty clothes. This is helpful if you are going to be away for some time without access to laundry services.  All the brands have “starter packs” that include three (3) items. This is an economical way to begin your experience and to determine which item and brand best meets your needs.

Pack-It Starter Set_eaglecreekCredit: Eagle Creek13032_3_1_eBags packing set Credit:  eBags

 

Finding a packing organizer system  has given me a new sense of freedom. I no longer have to agonize over how to pack my clothes. I know that I can get everything  into one case, and it is accessible upon arrival. The organizer saves me both time and money in luggage fees. That’s a win-win. Now, I can go shopping for shoes. Oh, I guess I need an organizer for that!

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Living the Life

Have you ever considered how you might want to spend your retirement years? Most of us dread the thought and therefore don’t place very much time into thinking about it.

If you could spend your elder years  in any one place, where would it be?”  Answering this is not as easy as it seems, which is why most of us “stay put” and don’t make any changes. But wonder if you could make a change?  Where would you go? Perhaps a little house in a  small village by the beach; or live in a high-rise building with lots of people around you, with a spectacular view of sunrise and sunsets; or move to a house on a ranch, or to a cabin in the mountains. What would make you say… ” This is my spot!”

The Huffington Post reported about one woman who knew exactly where she wanted to spend her latter years.  She and her husband always liked to take cruises, and after he passed, she decided to take up residence on a cruise ship. What an idea! Now, I don’t know that I could live on a cruise ship, but I could live at a golf resort with a spa. Do you think that I can work a deal ? I’ll look around and get back to you.

Read the story and set your own fantastic retirement dream into action and be prepared to Live the Life. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/lee-wachtstetter-cruise_n_6524822.html

The Future is Now

Are you willing to pay for your restaurant reservation? The LA Times reported about a new trend in the restaurant business of apps that charge fees for reservations at restaurants. http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-future-food-dining-out-20150117-story.html

I can understand why this has started. Too often people contact restaurants and make a reservation, only to not show up. This “fee-based” app approach will make people be more thoughtful about their dining selections and planning.

The question is do we really need another app for this, or could this transaction actually be handled through a reservation mobile system like  Open Table? It would seem that would be more efficient. Also, the question is how much, and would there be a fee for all restaurants or only the better restaurants?

I would like to hear from you on this one.

Would you be willing to pay a fee for a reservation? ___ Yes  ___ No

How much would you be willing to pay?   __< $5 __$ 10_$15_$20 _>$20

Leave your response and comments below.

Try Something New

My husband and I have our favorite restaurants in the local area that we frequent. Each time we go, I immediately turn to the dish that I ordered the last time we were there. My husband  says… “Why don’t you try something new?” Really, after all I love the way that this restaurant prepares calamari or salmon.  Wonder if I am not satisfied, then it has been a waste, right? With encouragement, I tentatively move out of my comfort zone and try a new dish. Each time I  am pleasantly surprised and now have an additional item to add to my repertoire.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read the post “Stick Your Neck Out” written by blogger, Jan, the Silverliningmama (silverliningmama.com). This posting reminded me of how tentative we are about trying new things and when we don’t, it robs us of the excitement and joy of exploring the band width of life’s offerings.

So whether you are planning a trip or determining where to dine, think outside the box. Do something you have never done before. Go beyond your norm. Eat food that you haven’t tried; travel to a part of the country or world that you haven’t visited. Bask in the glory of knowing that you will not be stuck in the ordinary, that you have the courage to try something different and learn from the experience. I think I’ll even try a trip to a cold climate. Okay, I’ll have to think about that.

I am interested in you sharing a time that you decided to Try Something New and what happened.