Travel Product Review – Travel SIM

Travel SIM

Travel SIM – Yes or No?

You’re about to depart on a trip and you’re thinking about how you’ll stay in touch. Do you turn off roaming and data and jump on wireless when you can or do you use your phone abroad with data? I’ve done both but I prefer to be in touch, use my GPS apps and check email periodically. In my travels, having a cell phone is a must for driving directions (think roundabout) , destination information (the next town) and in case of emergency.

Travel SIM

Travel SIM – Your Best Option

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to pass on your cell provider’s international travel plan and go for a SIM card instead. A SIM card saves on data and roaming charges and keeps you connected. TravelSIM is my first choice because its prepaid, works in most countries and there’s no cost for incoming calls and messages. You buy it online and it’s delivered within a couple of days. You also get great “bars” in destination (cell reception) because you’re using a local telecom provider. Make sense?

The small challenge here is installing the SIM card. You’ll need to remove your current SIM card and insert your TravelSIM card. It’s easy – use a pin to open the SIM card slot (a thumb tack or paper clip both work); take out your current SIM card; put in the new SIM card, and Voila! Your phone will need to be “unlocked” for the new card to work (if it’s locked, the new SIM card won’t work). Contact your service provider or a cell phone unlocking service.

If by chance you didn’t buy a SIM card in advance, you can still buy when you arrive in destination (at the airport, train station or bus station). Just look for a store that sells SIM cards. The cards will be cheap and in many cases an employee will insert the SIM card for you.

Travel SIM

Travel SIM – The Bottom Line

You can save a lot of money and get a lot more high-speed data by planning ahead and buying a Travel SIM card.  If you are traveling to multiple countries, you will probably need a separate SIM card for each country unless you buy a TravelSIM card that features multiple countries and zones. If you get a new SIM card for travel, you will be using a different phone number from your regular one. To simplify taking a smartphone abroad, use messaging apps like What’s App or iMessage to maintain your identity and end-to-end encryption. A SIM card for travel keeps you in touch and keeps you off unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Safe Travels!

Generation Gap: What Your Age Says About How You Travel

For the third year in a row, we polled US travelers of all ages to find out more about the travel habits and trends of the coveted millennials as well as gen Xers and boomers. Last year, we reported that millennial travelers were “cheap, plugged in and always looking for pleasure“. Guess what, not much has changed.

Always-connected, highly-mobile millennials are forging new norms for leisure and business travel, making technology, in-the-know experiences, and adrenaline-rush adventures—not cookie-cutter vacation packages—some of the most striking hallmarks of the way they explore and enjoy their world.

When they do hit the road, millennials see themselves as explorers, not tourists. They disproportionately favor vacation rentals over hotels, cities over beaches, and grab travel opportunities whenever they can, such as topping off business trips with leisure travel.

Hipmunk is built by and for younger travelers, and we understand their travel patterns better than anyone else.  Our site and app attract people who are younger, on average, than other big online travel brands. Here are five key takeaways from this year’s study.

1) Mix Business With Pleasure, Please!

Millennials do more business travel than any other age group, and they take advantage while they can:

  • They work on the road. 38% of millennials travel for business, while just 23% of Gen Xers and 8% of boomers say they do.
  • And will do so even more. 80% are going to travel more for work in 2016 than 2015 (compared to 60% and 45% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively)
  • They stay in vacation rentals. Seventy-four percent of millennials have stayed at a vacation rental (such as those available through Airbnb) on a business trip, an experience shared by just 38% of Gen Xers and 20% of boomers.
  • They perfected bleisure. 81% will probably add extra time to a business trip (compared to 56% and 46% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively).

Millennials already dominate business travel, and they’re doing it in a different way than the previous generation. ‘Bleisure’ may sound like a contagious disease, but it’s a real phenomenon, and millennials are making vacation rentals a viable option for their business trips.

2) Cut the Cord, But Not the Tube

Millennials’ astute use of the Internet and social connectivity informs their travel preparation, and how they live when they’re on the road. They edge out other generations in their desire to be connected. This generation is connected 24-7, and that’s clear in the way they treat every stage of their travel.

  • They’re savvy with travel tricks and tools. One-half of millennials say they’re “travel hackers”, meaning they know all of the best sites and methods to get the best travel deals, while just 26% of Gen Xers and 12% of boomers share that sentiment.
  • They stay connected always, in all ways: Whether flying for business or pleasure, Wi-Fi is the coveted in-flight amenity (41% and 46% of millennials says it’s the most important amenity for leisure and business travel respectively, topping entertainment systems or premium economy). Fast, free Wi-Fi is the favorite hotel perk for leisure travel (cited by 28% of millennial respondents). And fully one in ten say Wi-Fi trouble is their worst travel nightmare, topping extreme turbulence, lost luggage or an emergency landing.
  • They get travel ideas from social media. Forty-four percent of millennials get travel inspiration from YouTube videos and 28% from Instagram.  While just 18% of Gen Xers and 6% of boomers turn to YouTube, and 7% and 1% of Gen Xers and boomers to Instagram respectively.
3) Skip the Agony (and the security line)

Millennials will go the extra mile – or pay a little more – to remove friction points that make travel frustrating.

  • They’re more likely to use pre-check services like TSA/Clear: 31% of millennials say they’ll do so this year, vs. 24% of Gen Xers and 23% of boomers.
  • They’d like to avoid the agony of a crying baby in flight. Half say they’d be willing to pay more for a child-free flight.
4) Bye-Bye Beach, Hello Bucket List!

The younger the traveler, the more likely he or she eschews the label of “tourist” when on the road, suggesting younger generations want to experience different cultures authentically, not just to observe them.  The study found that 38% of millennials surveyed consider themselves to be explorers rather than tourists, compared to 30% of Gen Xers and 24% of boomers.

And this year, millennials say they are planning monumental, remember-it-forever travel.

  • They’re ready for a big adventure. 65% of millennials claim they are checking something off their bucket list this year, compared to just 35% and 21% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively.
  • They crave nature. While beach vacations and theme parks remain popular destinations across generations (37% of all respondents say they’ll head to the shore this year and 23% to Disneyland and its ilk), millennials seek out outdoor and activity-based trips more frequently.
    • Thirty-four percent of millennials will enjoy Mother Nature’s company (e.g. camping or hiking), while only 27% and 16% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively will join them. And nearly one-in-five millennials (18%) will indulge in adventure sports like skydiving or snowboarding, a risk just 6% of Gen Xers and 1% of boomers plan to take.
  • They’re ready to go anywhere, anytime. 75% have a valid passport from the United States and/or another country vs. 49% of Gen Xers and 40% of boomers.
  • They cross the border. Sixty percent of millennials will take a vacation outside the United States this year, while just 33% of Gen Xers and 17% of boomers will go to another country.
5) 2016 Year of the Travel Optimist (and Airbnb)

This may well be the year of the travel optimist as more people report they plan to take their vacation days. Fifty-four percent of all generations say they are planning on traveling more this year than in 2015.  That percent hits a whopping 72 percent among just the millennial respondents, compared to 59% of Gen Xers and 40% of boomers.

It’s been widely reported that Americans don’t take enough vacation, and the Hipmunk survey confirmed that 30% of all people say they took no leisure trips last year. Nevertheless, 82% of millennials took time off for fun. Some seemed to have nothing but fun: 7% of millennials took 10+ leisure trips last year, compared to just 3% of the general population.

Millennials also lead the way in preferring vacation rentals over hotels. Forty-four percent of that generation would rather bunk down Airbnb-style on their leisure trips than drop anchor at a hotel; only 23% of Gen Xers and 11% of boomers agree. This preference extends to business travel.

These trends suggest that vacation rentals could eventually surpass hotel bookings amongst this age group, for both business and pleasure.

Survey Methodology: The survey was conducted on Hipmunk’s behalf by Market Cube between February 5 and 9, among 1650 adults (22% of respondents were aged 18 to 34)

The Best Airports for Long (Unexpectedly Fun) Layovers

It’s not often you hear someone rave about his or her time at the airport. More often than not our layover is spent on our phones scrolling through emails or texts (or let’s be honest, Tinder) while trying not to overhear the conversation of the person next to us at the gate. But there is good news for all travelers expecting a longer airport wait this year: It turns out there is a lot of fun to be had when waiting for the next flight. We are talking everything from massages to jumping into in a rooftop pool. With fun in mind, we’ve put together the list of the airports taking the layover experience to the next level.

 1. Changi Airport – Singapore

Changi won the World’s Best Airport Award (voted on by travelers) in 2015, and when it comes to spending time during a layover, this airport certainly does not disappoint. What better way to pass the time than a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool? Or take in a film at their movie theater. There is also a butterfly garden, orchid garden, and sunflower garden that boasts a field of more than 500 sunflowers. Changi is also home to the world’s tallest slide in an airport at nearly 40 feet tall. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel also has a swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center for those looking to spend the night near the airport. In addition to a plethora of shopping and dining locations, Changi’s unique airport features make it stand out as a luxurious and entertaining spot for long layovers.

2. John F. Kennedy Airport – Terminal 5, New York, NY

Of all the terminals at JFK, Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 is the one you want to spend your layover in. With more than 30 food and beverage spots, you can find just about anything to nibble and sip on. That includes places like Deep Blue Sushi, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and Bar Veloce. The terminal hosts more than 35 retail shops. If sitting down and relaxing is more your style, people watch on the Grandstands while you charge your phone and use the terminal’s free Wi-Fi.  The Marketplace at T5 also hosts concerts with musicians from all over the world, including Taylor Swift, James Blunt and Robyn. Travelers can step out of the airport and over to the Crowne Plaza JFK Airport Hotel to ensure a solid night’s sleep during an overnight layover. Their complimentary shuttle bus will get you right back to the airport in time for your flight.

3. Heathrow Airport – London, United Kingdom

This bustling airport caters to an exceptionally diverse crowd, and the range of shops, restaurants and entertainment options reflects just that. The airport has two spas that offer services ranging from manicures and pedicures to aromatherapy and facials. The No1 Travel Spa offers a jet lag revival package for those who need to recuperate from exceptionally long trips. The iconic shopping destination Harrod’s of London has shops located in each terminal, and personal shoppers are available by appointment to provide fashion and style advice. Restaurants and cafes regularly host events all year round, including special activities and menus for Chinese New Year, like complimentary 2016 Chinese Horoscope cards and special dishes like Hoisin Duck Puffs from Rhubarb British Restaurant and Bar. Travelers can step out of the airport and head to nearby Sofitel London Heathrow for afternoon tea at the hotel’s tea salon or check email at one of their workspaces.

4. Vancouver International Airport – British Columbia, Canada

Voted by travelers as the Best Airport in North America, YVR is not short on entertainment and services to help you spend your time in between flights. The airport has a Meet and Great Service that provides travelers with an Airport Butler who can customize your experience, from getting you to your gate to helping you with the purchase of duty-free items and spa services. The Absolute Spa and Hair Salon can handle all grooming needs, from hair styling and removal to massages. There is a diverse selection of international fare, from sit down restaurants and bars to fast food chains. Less than three miles away is the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport where those with longer or overnight layovers can relax in the indoor pool and spa tub, grab food at one of many fine-dining establishments and easily hop back to the airport with complimentary on-demand shuttle service that operates around the clock.

5. Denver International Airport– Denver, CO

Denver’s airport stands apart with its appealing architectural style, complete with a vast collection of public art, more than 140 shops and restaurants, and relaxing lounges. The airport offers free Wi-Fi, but many travelers find themselves putting down their phones to stare at the gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains near gates C23 and C24. Denver is also home to Paradise 4 Paws, 9http://www.flydenver.com/traveler_services/pets) an on-site pet resort. Dog suites have their own flat screen TV’s and massage therapy and veterinary services are also available. Cats won’t feel left out either with their own bungalow and Adventure Jungle. Who said layovers can’t be fun for pets too?

6. San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, CA

San Francisco airport is a tech-lovers layover dream. The #Converge@flySFO loungeis a unique space inside the airport created specifically for travelers to share ideas around technology, entrepreneurship and ways to create change (among many topics). The room has free Wi-Fi, white boards to write down ideas and places to charge electronics. For less business-minded guests, the airport also houses theAviation Museum and Library, the Berman Reflection Room for quiet meditation, XpresSpa’s for spa services and a free yoga room. Travelers and their pets with longer layovers are welcome at the Aloft San Francisco Airport Hotel located just two miles from the airport. Guests can enjoy stretching their legs on the scenic jogging trail or taking a dip in the hotel pool before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to their airport to catch their next flight.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 11, 2016.

 

The Best Apps for Productivity Across Time Zones

For many folks, travel is a way to escape from the daily grind, relax, and gain some much-needed rejuvenation. But for the world’s more than 480 million business travelers, travel too often involves worrying about missed emails, dropped expense reports, or scheduling meetings or keeping a project on track from across different time zones.

It can be tough to get work done far away from the office, but that’s where each of these apps comes in. Every entry on this list meets a specific need of the modern business traveler. Taken together, they offer business travelers a maximum-productivity package that will help ensure you’re able to get work done pretty much anywhere.

Asana

Asana is perfect for anyone who needs to tackle collaborative projects with a remote team. It’s developed by one of the co-founders of Facebook, and it’s just as on-trend as the behemoth social media platform. The app lets you lay out the steps necessary to complete a project, assign each task to a collaborator, track the project’s progress, and communicate with other team members—all without being in the same room or worrying about scheduling a phone call across time zones.

CamCard

Perfect for trips on which you anticipate doing lots of networking, CamCard allows you to digitally store business cards and contact information for new prospects or collaborators. So there’ll be no more panicking when you get home and realize you lost that potential new client’s contact info en route.

Docusign

For the executive on the go: Docusign makes it easy to digitally execute contracts, manage transactions, and issue legally binding electronic signatures across mobile devices. The service prides itself on being usable from virtually anywhere in the world (it’s already in use in 43 languages and 188 countries), and it’s secure as it is functional.

Dropbox

No matter where you are in the world, you can access all of your files from Dropbox. If you know you’ll need access to certain documents while traveling, simply upload them to the service ahead of your trip. Then you’ll be able to access them from any device, at any time. (It sure beats having to wait several hours until a coworker wakes up and can email you the documents you need.) You can also easily share files with simple links.

Expensify

Never worry about processing expense reports on the go again. Expensify allows users to quickly import card transactions, add cash expenses, record billable expenses, auto-categorize expenses, create custom invoices, ditch paper receipts, issue reimbursements, and more—and it will do it all while supporting more than 160 currencies and international taxes.

HipChat

For those times when you need to communicate with your team in real-time (but you’re in, say, Bangkok while the rest of your team is in NYC), turn to HipChat. The app offers a group chat service that’s available on desktops, tablets, or smartphones. The app will also deliver messages to your phone even when you’re signed off, so that you and your teammates will be able to reach each other at any time should a pressing issue arise.

Hipmunk

Sure, we’re shamelessly self-promoting. But it’s only because we think we’ve made the best travel app on the market. Hipmunk’s app eliminates wasted time in the planning stages of a trip by finding the best hotel and flight deals, providing free flight fare alerts, and offering instant booking. Business travelers can also use the app to coordinate group travel. Leave the trip planning to us so you can get back to work.

World Time Buddy

World Time Buddy is a world clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler all in one convenient app. Need to plan a conference call with someone inSan Francisco while you’re in Dublin? Skip the math and simply plug in what time zone you’re in, what time zone they’re in, and bada boom: The app will provide you with a selection of compatible meeting times. The app also tracks market hours.

XE Currency

If your business travels take you to multiple countries in one go and you need to calculate currencies in a hurry, then XE Currency has you covered. The app allows users to view historical charts and current exchange rates and calculate prices from a mobile device. You can also create customized comparison charts for prices anywhere in the world.

The only downside to these apps? They’ll limit your excuses for not getting work done during your travels. Welcome to the great big mobile world!

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on February 18, 2016.

5 Top US Boutique Hotels for Business Travelers

Having somewhere comfortable and homey to rest your head at night when traveling for business can make the experience much more enjoyable. There are many hotels catering to business travelers across America, but most are chain hotels with impersonal, bustling atmospheres. Sometimes, when traveling for work, it’s more comfortable to stay somewhere smaller and more intimate, and a good alternative is the boutique hotel. Read on to find out more about the best boutique hotels for Business travelers.

1. The Setai Hotel, Miami

If you’re traveling to Miami, chances are you’ll want to take advantage of the city’s entertainment while you’re there; thus, The Setai, in the heart of South Beach, is a great option for business travelers. The hotel features a business center with iMac workstations, free color copiers and fax machines, free printing, complementary office supplies to use and a dedicated help team. For an affordable stay on South Beach, check out Hipmunk deals at The Setai Miami.

2. Hotel Lincoln,Chicago

Hotel Lincoln Chicago, from the Joie de Vivre hotel company, is located outside of the hustle and bustle of the loop, making it a good place to get some sleep. The hotel features complementary Wi-Fi throughout, and all of the rooms are outfitted with a work desk and iHome docking station. The hotel also has a business center and several bookable meeting rooms.

3. Refinery Hotel, New York City

New York is an extremely popular destination for business travelers, and the Refinery Hotel, located in the city’s Fashion District, is a great place for them to stay. Each room has a writing desk, iHome docking station and free WiFi. The hotel also has convenient services like valet parking, concierge and fitness center. The Refinery also offers complementary business services like A/V equipment and printing.

4. The Benjamin Hotel, New York City

Another popular boutique option in the Big Apple is the Benjamin Hotel. The hotel has kitchenettes inside each room, so weary travelers make their own breakfast if they have to get before an early meeting. Guests at the Benjamin can ensure they’re well-rested for their next meeting via the hotel’s Rest & Renew Sleep Program, which offers insomniatic guests a pillow menu, sleep concierge, sleep masks, white noise machines, dream dictionaries and more.

5. Hotel Vitale, San Francisco

Another Joie de Vivre Hotel, the Hotel Vitale San Francisco is located in the very bustling Financial District. The hotel features work desks in each room with ergonomic chairs and safes big enough for laptops, as well as free WiFi, laundry and dry cleaning services, complementary newspapers and a soaking tub for the end of a very long workday.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 19, 2016.

How To Make Hotel Wi-Fi Work For You

Adventures are exciting. When you’re in a new place, all the impressions are exciting and refreshing. At the end of the day, however, when it’s time to unwind, it can be necessary to recharge your batteries. Part of recharging in the modern era includes checking your email, social media, and the news. You need to catch up with friends and family, and also on work emails. Away from home, you’re already out of your comfort zone, but at least you have your devices with you.

Fortunately, in 2015, almost all hotels have internet — but unfortunately, many hotels still charge for Wi-Fi. How can this be? The United Nations declared already in 2011 that internet access is a basic human right. In this article, we will discuss how to hook up to Wi-Fi for free as often as possible, no matter where you are.

1. Consider Hotel Price Class

While some of the most expensive hotels charge for Wi-Fi, while some of the most basic hotels — read: cheapest hotels — offer it for free. But the world is a complicated place.

The logic generally seems to be that if a customer is already paying $300 to stay one night in New York, why wouldn’t they pay a few more bucks just to get online? On the other hand, budget hotels, where customers are known not to have a lot of money to spare, often don’t charge for Wi-Fi access. That might drive potential customers away. There are exceptions to this pattern, but popular options like Best Western can usually be relied upon for immediate gratification without any sneaky charges. Other basic hotels with free Wi-Fi include Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Holiday Inn Express, La Quinta, and Rodeway Inn.

 

Not all luxury hotels, however, charge for Wi-Fi. Especially among those catering to the younger, hipper crowd, Wi-Fi is known to be a necessity, not a luxury, and that’s reflected in the hotels’ values and pricing. In New York, a stay at the Ace Hotelincludes complimentary Wi-Fi; in San Francisco, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Union Square does the same.

 

2. Know the Loyalty Programs

The Sir Francis Drake Hotel is a member of the Kimpton family of hotels and restaurants, which offers rewards to its customers. If you want to stay in a luxury hotel, but you find out Wi-Fi is not provided free of charge at that property, consider joining the hotel’s loyalty program. For example, loyalty programs with the aforementioned Kimpton family, Fairmont, Joie de Vivre, the Wyndham hotel group, Club Carlson, or IHG Rewards all offer free Wi-Fi to members on their properties. On a slightly more exclusive scale are the programs for Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and other hotel chains. These offer free Wi-Fi as rewards for numbers of stays to elite members. It can take some time to acquire the benefits — 50 nights for Marriott Gold members, for example — but their rewards are luxurious and available in many cities, from Las Vegas to Copenhagen.

 

3. Take Credit

Another way to access benefits from top brand hotels is to sign up for a credit card with them. The Ritz-Carlton rewards card from Chase comes with free Gold status with Ritz-Carlton during your first year of membership. These benefits include an increase in value by 25 percent on rewards points, complimentary room upgrades, and hotel credits in addition to free in-room internet. You can also earn travel credit and other membership benefits.

With the American Express Platinum Card or Business Card, you can get Gold status at Starwood hotels. Other benefits the American Express Platinum card offers include an additional 40,000 points upon sign up, airport lounge access, airline credit, priority airport screening in certain locations if you are qualified and accepted to select programs, airline ticket savings, and access to unlimited Wi-Fi at over a million hotspots internationally. Knowing potential credit card benefits and utilizing their assets can add up to a lot more than just deals on gas and groceries. You can even use these benefits to streamline a globetrotting life.

4. Look Other Places

No matter where you are and your level of familiarity with your destination, with a few simple tricks, you can almost always find an internet connection. No one wants to get stuck paying for Wi-Fi in the comfort of their own hotel room. Also keep in mind that if you’re rushing to your hotel in Las Vegas, you can usually stop at a cafe, restaurant, or library to access internet for free. As Wi-Fi is increasingly viewed as a common good and social necessity, you’ll soon be able to engage your platforms from wherever you find yourself — whether you anticipated the destination or not.

One of the most exciting parts of living in this era is the spontaneity of everyday life. When you know how to find Wi-Fi hotspots, you can make anywhere your base for as long as you end up staying there. Familiarizing yourself with local cultures and trying specialties, whether it’s barbecue in Memphis or a European duvet in Venice, during downtime is all part of the adventure.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 14, 2016.