Traveling on Time, in Budget
Time and money are two very important considerations for most road warriors. Just think how many times you have arrived at the airport only to find your flight delayed or been charged last minute fees by a sometimes-grumpy gate agent.
While no one can make flight delays go away, Road Warrior has discovered a new service that will help all air travelers better manage their travel experience.
Most travelers contact the airline to determine whether their flight is on time. Airlines actually benefit by waiting to release information on known or likely delays until the last moment. After all, passengers aware of severe delays might book their flight on another airline.
Where airline passengers were once without alternatives to airline or airport delivered information, a new service, FlightCaster, has come to the rescue. Released in August 2009, FlightCaster is a free private service that uses information, like aircraft tracking, FAA monitoring, weather forecasts and a 10-year flight history to forecast the likelihood of delay.
Best used within six hours of departure, you simply enter your airline, flight number and date. FlightCaster gives you the probable percentage of an on-time flight or one delayed more than or less than 60 minutes. With this information, you can decide whether to change your travel arrangements or head for the airport.
Gadget oriented road warriors will be happy to know that you can download apps for both iPhone or BlackBerry devices.
Now that you are more likely to be on time, let’s discuss the budget. A recent CNN article announced yet another increase in checked baggage fees. According to this article, US Airways now charges $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second bag.
If your just must take two pieces of luggage, it is time to revisit an earlier Road Warrior suggestion. Pack early and ship your luggage using one of the package services. Your hosts at any of the 700 Extended Stay Hotels are more than happy to hold your packages the few days until you arrive. Please use our website to locate the shipping address and phone number of your hotel.
If shipping ahead is not an option, pack a carry-on bag with just what you need for a few days. Since all Extended Stay Hotels have guest laundry facilities, clean clothes are no problem. However, remember to pack clothes made with synthetic fiber as they will require little or no ironing.
Last Minute Hotel Deals - Save Up to 20% on Your Next Week-End Stay
Last minute deals for new bookings this week-end (stays 8/28 through 8/30) and next week-end (stays 9/4 through 9/6) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Week-End Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% for stays this week-end or next at your favorite destinations, like Phoenix, Sacramento, Chicago, and Atlanta.
For Arrival Dates 8/28/2009 and 8/29/2009
For Arrival Dates 9/4/2009 and 9/5/2009
Traffic Jams: Cost and Cures
Christopher Elliott, a well respected travel expert and blogger, recently published a column asking, “What costs travelers $87 billion a year and is basically unavoidable?” To answer this question, Elliot sites a Texas Transportation Institute study on traffic congestion. That’s right, we waste billions of dollars each year in traffic!
While traffic congestion presents a serious and long standing problem, Road Warrior is not quite ready to accept the idea that the problem is unavoidable. If we have the technology to build a space station, we certainly can find ways for road warriors to avoid traffic build-ups.
The first place to look for a solution is, of course, the Internet. Each of the three primary Internet map sites, Yahoo, Google and MapQuest, offers current traffic condition information, so you can check for congestion before leaving your room in one of our Extended Stay Hotels locations. Yahoo Maps also offers weather condition alerts, and MapQuest lets you find cheap fuel. Google also has several very neat features. Google Maps lets you see what the typical traffic is for a particular day and time.
But since traffic conditions change regularly, having an in-car system with real-time traffic information is the best way to avoid travel pitfalls. Enter the latest version of GPS technology, the traffic-ready navigators. A leading consumer reporting publication rates the Garmin 265T and the Garmin 265WT as great values.
If purchasing one of these modern marvels is your plan, be aware that there are three different ways in which they receive up-to-the-minute traffic information. Certain devices, like some made by TomTom, use a Bluetooth connection to your cell phone and may require a subscription fee. Devices like the Garmin mentioned above use an FM signal similar to the one that bring music to your radio. The third method is via a satellite radio service. If you plan to transplant your device into a rental car, be sure that your rental has the appropriate reception.
Although traffic congestion is a giant pain, technology provides us with a several ways to navigate through the morass of jams, collisions, and construction delays. Road Warrior hopes that even more innovations will one day make the hours and dollars wasted in bumper-to-bumper traffic a thing of the past.
Maximizing your Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are a great way for travel industry companies to thank their steadfast customers. Extended Stay Hotels has two such programs; Suite Offers (TM) is an email rewards club in which members get exclusive deals delivered to their inbox, and the Suite Savings page and RSS Feed keeps regular Extended Stay Hotels customers aware of last minute discounts on week-end stays.
Probably the best known loyalty programs are frequent flyer clubs, in which you earn “miles” toward future flights. One sticking point for many flyers, however, is that they don’t fly the same airline every time they travel, resulting in accumulating miles in a number of different programs.
This is easy to do since, according to FrequentFlyer.com, there are over 70 frequent flyer type programs worldwide with a total membership of 100 million people. While some rewards programs only allow members to redeem points for travel, others have huge catalogs of merchandise or travel services you that can be purchased with loyalty points.
One way to maximize the benefits of frequent flyer miles and loyalty points is through participation in internet exchanges, the subject of a recent Associated Press article carried by the Chicago Tribune. This isn’t exactly a new idea, which means that some clever entrepreneurs have already set up trading platforms on the Internet.
Points.com is basically an exchange where you trade your points or miles for other points or miles. There is no charge for posting, but you pay a fee with each completed transaction. One downside with this site, at least for the moment, is the limited number of participating programs.
LoyaltyMatch.com is more like shopping, though there is an aspect of trading here. Like some other web-based selling platforms, LoyaltyMatch.com gives you the chance to buy or sell. Here is a simplified version of how this works.
Let’s say you are interested in an 8 GB iPod. The United Airlines mileage program offers this item for 39,100 points. You offer money, miles or points to trade for the iPod. Another LoyaltyMatch member with the requisite 39,100 points accepts your offer, redeems the iPod and has it shipped to you. You provide the other member with the agreed to money, miles or points. As with any transaction, be sure to check the fees or charges involved and be sure this really is a good deal for you.
Both sites provide innovative ways for loyalty points customers to maximize their membership in frequent flier clubs. And a quick way for you to earn rewards on your next hotel stay is by signing up today for Suite Offers. No points to keep track of, just simple, generous exclusive savings emailed directly to you.
Extended Stay Hotels Week-End Deals - from $27.99/Night
Last minute deals for new bookings this week-end (stays 8/14 through 8/16) and next week-end (stays 8/21 through 8/23) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Week-End Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% for stays this week-end or next at your favorite destinations, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia.
For Arrival Dates 8/21/2009 and 8/22/2009
* Los Angeles, CA - Rates from $43.99/night
* Fort Lauderdale, FL- Rates from $35.99/night
* Indianapolis, IN - Rates from $31.99/night
* Houston, TX - Rates from $31.99/night
* Seattle, WA - Rates from $31.99/night
For Arrival Dates 8/28/2009 and 8/29/2009
* Hartford, CT- Rates from $51.99/night
* Chicago, IL- Rates from $35.99/night
* Raleigh/Durham, NC Area - Rates from $31.99/night
* Albuquerque, NM - Rates from $27.99/night
* Philadelphia, PA - Rates from $51.99/night
America's Top Tourist Attraction, According to AARP
A recent article in the AARP Bulletin, entitled Star Attractions, lists 50 top tourist attractions – one for each state. According to AARP, whose members are often regular travelers, these are some of the most frequently visited sights in the country.
Road Warrior was most intrigued by the attraction which ranked at the very top. Believe it or not, that location, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota,hosts an estimated 40 million visitors annually! Billing itself as “The Hollywood of the Midwest,” Mall of America holds over 350 events each year and is home to numerous vacation destinations. It was even featured in documentaries on the Discovery Channel and Travel Channel. Best of all, Extended Stay America Minneapolis – Bloomington is within just one mile of the mall.
According to Wikipedia, Mall of America opened in 1992, and has over 4.2 million square feet of space, with 2.5 million square feet in retail. The parking facilities can accommodate over 20,000 cars.
This is one destination that truly does have something for everyone. Mom will adore the huge choice of stores ranging from the elegance of Bloomingdales to any number of trendy clothing and accessory shops. Dad can test his skills as a World War II fighter pilot at the A.C.E.S Flight Simulator, or check out the race car attractions at NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway.
OK, you are already thinking, what will the kids say about a vacation to a mall. But, when you tell them about attractions within the mall like Nickelodeon Universe, Underwater Adventures Aquarium, and LEGO, they will be ready to go. Plus, the entire mall is enclosed, so there are no worries about calling the whole day off because of rain or snow.
Making the most of your time while at the Mall of America takes planning, and frankly a mid-day nap isn’t a bad idea either. Since your comfortable room at the Extended Stay America Minneapolis – Bloomington is just a mile away, you can swing back for lunch and a nap and be ready for an evening adventure.
Mall of America is a must-see for those who will be traveling through the Bloomington area. And if you are still trying to figure out where the family will vacation this year, you should consider a taking a trip to this iconic American shopping Mecca.
Last-Minute Hotel Deals for Stays this Week-End - From $23.99/night
Last minute deals for new bookings this week-end (stays 8/14 through 8/16) and next week-end (stays 8/21 through 8/23) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Week-End Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% for stays this week-end or next at your favorite destinations, like San Francisco, Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami, and Atlanta.
For Arrival Dates 8/14/2009 and 8/15/2009
* San Francisco, CA - Rates from $55.99/night
* Orlando, FL- Rates from $35.99/night
* Chicago, IL - Rates from $35.99/night
* Boston, MA - Rates from $47.99/night
* Las Vegas, NV - Rates from $39.99/night
For Arrival Dates 8/21/2009 and 8/22/2009
Wonders of the World
While the Grand Canyon is the only U.S. nature site still in the running, Road Warrior checked out the list of nominees and found some great places to visit, many not surprisingly near Extended Stay Hotels.
Included among the nominees were both Mount McKinley, between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, and Pikes Peak in Colorado. Referred to affectionately as “America’s Mountain,” Pikes Peak is known for everything from amazing fall colors to downhill racing. Regardless of what season you visit, be sure to take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest such rail service in the world. Assure a fun, comfortable trip by staying at one of the two great Extended Stay Hotels in nearby Colorado Springs.
Road warriors who frequent California won't be surprised to learn that internationally known Yosemite National Park was also on the list. Made famous by photographer Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley was carved out by giant glaciers a million years ago. Yosemite sights like Half Dome and the El Capitan cliff have become world-wide emblems of California’s majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains.
At the southern end of Yosemite Park is the Mariposa Grove of ancient redwoods, some nearly 3,000 years old. Walking among these giants is an experience you don’t want to miss. A little farther south is Fresno, California where you'll find two terrific Extended Stay Hotels locations.
Feel the excitement of a million gallons of water going over a huge cliff at Niagara Falls, New York. Regardless of the time of year you visit, be sure you have rain gear to protect you from the constant spray. Whether you view the Niagara from one of the towers that surround the Falls or venture closer to the pounding water, this is a sight you will long remember.
As you might imagine, the immediate Niagara Falls area can get pretty congested, so avoid the crowds and stay just 20 miles away at Extended Stay Hotels’ Buffalo – Amherst Hotel.
America is a beautiful country, filled with some of the most awe-inspiring sights you can imagine. Road Warrior encourages you to set aside some of your travel time to experience America's natural wonders. And when it's time to pack it in, you'll find a comfortable and affordable Extended Stay Hotels location nearby.
Keeping Up with the Fees
A recent issue of the USA Today travel section revealed some interesting but unwelcome trends in air travel. The first article was a column by Linda Burbank responding to a traveler who had been hit with a change fee that he thought was unwarranted.
When this traveler booked tickets using frequent flyer miles, he was told that there would be no fee to change dates, so long as the routing remained the same. The airline subsequently changed its policy, adding a change fee. Unfortunately, the traveler had to make two date changes, one before the policy changed and one after. According to Ms. Burbank and the airline, the fee did not apply to the first change, but did to the second.
An Associated Press article in the same edition announced losses, job cuts and fee hikes for Texas-based Continental Airlines. According to this story, Continental intends to raise $100 million per year in new fees. These include a boost in the bag checking fee, a fee for booking by telephone and more as yet undisclosed fees.
This made Road Warrior wonder just how travelers are supposed to keep track of the ever-changing fees charged by airlines. Fortunately, the travel website Kayak has come to the rescue with its new Airline Fees page. While the page does include disclaimers about absolute accuracy, it is a terrific starting place.
To give you an idea of the information Kayak provides, Road Warrior reviewed fee information for United Airlines. United charges for all checked baggage and for three levels of food service. It also offers travelers extended Economy class legroom, you guessed it, for an additional fee. By comparison, another well known airline, Southwest, may not charge for the first two bags, but doesn’t even offer meals.
A successful road warrior is an informed road warrior. Know the fees before you get to the airport, then enjoy the comfort, convenience, and affordability of any of the nearly 700 Extended Stay Hotels locations in the U.S. and Canada
Last Minute Savings on Stays This Week-End - Extended Stay Hotels
Last minute deals for new bookings this week-end (stays 8/7 through 8/9) and next week-end (stays 8/14 through 8/16) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Week-End Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% for stays this week-end or next at your favorite destinations, like Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Orlando.
For Arrival Dates 8/7/2009 and 8/8/2009
* Phoenix, AZ - Rates from $19.99/night
* San Jose, CA- Rates from $43.99/night
* Fort Lauderdale, FL - Rates from $35.99/night
* St. Louis, MO - Rates from $23.99/night
* New York, NY - Rates from $87.99/night