There are many websites and apps out there with hotel reviews. What’s typically absent is the ability to see these properties side-by-side. Enter SmartDepart.

With this app – or through their website – you can sort hotels in a city by price, number of stars, reviews, or amenities. The web version won’t win any awards for beauty but behind the sparse home page sits a wonderful engine. A great feature is the ability to limit your search to properties within a chain such as Marriott, Hilton, or Starwood. For example, you can search only for a Courtyard or DoubleTree or Westin at a specific location. This is a great time saver for those who either have a certain preference or have elite status with a specific chain, though it is additional work to click on all the types of properties within a chain.

What’s missing is the Read More…

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Based on a recent survey, it seems most travelers are ready for wearable tech. A whopping 77% said they are ready for it if it helps them with their travels.

The survey had 6,300 participants from 15 countries. They tell us, for example, that 97% of their respondents carries either a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. A bit more surprising; 20% travel with all three items. This suggests a lot of business travelers in their response mix.

But that doesn’t reconcile with the fact that only 76% use airline apps. Less than half (43%) say this has improved their travel while even more (53%) want to receive personalized travel alerts on their devices. Half of respondents want to be able to use their smartphones for boarding while more than half (57%) want airport maps and directions.

Respondents were also almost equally divided on things like Read More…

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A frequent topic on talk boards is how much compensation is a passenger entitled to when a flight is delayed or canceled. Startup AirHelp might be able to help you. They created a free app to help you get through the maze of receiving the compensation you are entitled to.

AirHelp states that only 0.1 percent of passengers receive the compensation they are entitled to. That number seems extremely small but they do not explain in the article how AirHelp arrived at that figure. To their credit, AirHelp wrote a blog comparing compensation between the US and EU. While overall it is pretty good, they are a little misleading when it comes to US involuntary bumps. As I wrote some time ago, it is very rare for passengers to be involuntarily denied boarding. Much more common is the situation where an overbooked flight asks for volunteers.

Except for the rare involuntary denial, compensation in the US varies depending on many factors. One thing the app does not consider is airline status. There is more than ample anecdotal evidence that airlines give far better compensation to elites, with more benefits including overnight accommodations if necessary in many situations.

If this app is free, how does AirHelp make any money? Ah, the small catch. If they can help you recover any compensation, they take 25% for doing all the work. Frankly you can do it yourself but if you want some help and wouldn’t receive anything without them, you are certainly better off with their assistance. They say the average claim takes 6-8 weeks.

So far, AirHelp has figured out how to work directly with your Gmail account if you have your flight information there. That’s a great start but they need to expand this to more platforms, especially TripIt. Perhaps that is in the works for the future. On the other hand, the app is in need of an update. According to the Apple store, it is optimized for iPhone 5. Hopefully it won’t be long before they update this for iPhone 6 and the latest iOS 8 update.

They actually have a competitor app out there called However, this app is for EU flights only and also lags in updating and optimizing for the current products and operating system.

For sure, there are limitations with the AirHelp app. If your flight is to/from the EU, it might be able to target your compensation. If your flight is domestic US, they can’t help at all unless you are involuntarily denied boarding. Bottom line, check it out if you are flying into/out of EU and your flight is delayed/canceled.

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Ack! I think my head exploded!

The first day of the second annual BAcon Conference had our blogger brains brimming by day end and day two was not about to let up.

Focus: Tips on writing better. Have our writing be found by more readers. Learn all the techy stuff that is behind the scenes of our printed words. Hone are skills.

Sounds easy, ay? Uh uh. Learning that JetPack is not what George Jetson donned in order to fly to work but rather a WordPress tool with a bazillion options that can change the look and feel of our blog was all great stuff, though I’m sure I saw a brain or two erupt in the conference room.

Having a speaker from Planet Google itself was cool. Google’s Krista Seiden gave us know-how about Google Analytics, at least as the tool exists today. You think the airlines change their programs a lot? Put them up against Google always changing its top-secret algorithms any day. BoardingArea’s own Jeffsetter then gave us even more great stuff to hone our Google Analytics skills. Our brains were smoking’!

On a serious note, attorney Jonathan Tubin addressed the important area of legal issues that bloggers never think about until it is too late. I don’t think you’d be interested to read “Cell Reviews” from our 6’x8’ steel-walled rooms, but I could be wrong.

Affiliate programs were discussed (and we know you love our disclosure). Randy brought in an excellent panel including Adam Allamar, Grieg Santos-Buch, and Jeremy Zafrios to teach us how to be on the up-and-up so that we’re fair-and-square with our readers.

BAcon Las Vegas

Perfect for the afternoon (I used to love sitting around a circle in kindergarten while Mrs. Clair told us stories), we had storytelling by Cindy Reed who offered excellent tips for writing posts that will keep you, Dear Reader, reading to the end. John Hawkins filled our brains more with his amazing know-how o Jetpack for WordPress.

So much learning, so many brains exploding – though all in a good way. Our skills are definitely honed but good!

For those who had enough energy remaining, Randy invited us to attend an evening with him on the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel for adult beverages (just to take care of any remaining brain cells we might have had).  Sponsored by Mlife and Hyatt Gold Passport, this was a fun time to once again spend time with our fellow bloggers and take in amazing views of Las Vegas.

Mix lounge Delano Las Vegas

Seriously, there was a Day 3?  After a bit of brain recovery mode.

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Reporter stopped by TSA agent who didn’t know District of Columbia is in US

Right at my home airport MCO, a resident of the District of Columbia (the seat of our national government) was asked for his passport. Why? The TSA agent did not recognize his Washington D.C. license, and was unaware that it was a place. It’s not the first time the TSA has run in to this problem, but some light is being shed on the subject because it happened to a reporter. The TSA has since confirmed that yes, D.C. driver’s licenses are valid forms of ID.

Fake TSA screener probes passnegers at SFO

In a bizarre situation, a drunk 53 year old San Francisco man allegedly posed as a TSA agent and directed two women to private booths to be pat down. Authorities quickly discovered the ruse and arrested the man, who was on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong.

Consumers, airlines oppose TSA fee hike

In an effort to pay down the deficit, Congress has approved an increase in TSA fee hikes that will bring in billions over the next few years, but both consumers and airlines are not happy about the changes. Those who oppose the increase, which goes into effect next month, say that the government is treating them like a bottomless piggy bank.

Boeing Preps the 787-9 Dreamliner for Farnborough

The Farnborough Air Show is going on this week in England. In a sneak peek of what is to come, Boeing released this video of a Dreamliner being put through it’s paces.

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Left - photo taken with default camera app. Right - photo edited with Snapseed and VSCO Cam. iPhone 5s - Hong Kong

Left – photo taken with default camera app. Right – photo edited with Snapseed and VSCO Cam. iPhone 5s – Hong Kong

The best camera is the one you have with you, and these days most of us carry one with us almost everywhere. Your cell phone can take some great pictures, and they’re getting to the point where they’re challenging traditional point and shoots. Using your phone as your main travel camera also means one less item to pack!

If you like snapping a picture and sharing it with friends, then more power to you. But if you like to tinker, edit, and tweak your images to give them a little pop (or fix a small mistake), you’ll want to open them in a photo editing app. There are thousands of apps out there, so where do you start? Here are our favorite photography apps for travel:


snapseedA great app that has been around for years, this photo editor was so good that Google bought them up and made it free. While Snapseed has some great filters, the real power lies in its standard photo editing capabilities. Adjusting the color temperature, straightening your horizon, and sharpening your images are easy to do. Their auto-correct is (usually) a great start, and you can even adjust selective parts of the image or add a tilt-shift to your landscapes.

Free on iOS & Android


vscocamVSCO Cam’s strength lies in its film emulation. If you miss the look and colors of old film stocks (i.e. Kodak, Agfa, Fuji, and Polaroid films), then run your photos through the many filters VSCO Cam offers. You can edit the filter’s intensity, as well as sharpness, grain, vignettes, and fade. You can also selectively edit the hue of the highlights and shadows to create your own look. Post your creation to your favorite social network right from the app, or the VSCO Grid – their own showcase of photographers who use the app.

Free with in-app purchases on iOS & Android Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

Piling On the Luxury

With spending on both business and international travel expected to increase in 2014, airlines are looking to cater to their highest paying customers at the front of the plane. The New York Times gives a comprehensive rundown on the ways airlines all over the world are trying to bring luxury to the skies.

Airlines offering fewer flights, fewer seats

While airlines are focusing on their higher end passengers, medium and small sized airports are feeling a little left out. A watchdog group has found that seats and flights across the board, and especially in smaller communities, are getting cut back. Reasons go from rising fuel costs to pilot shortages for regional airlines.

The Instagram Travel Hashtag That’s Worrying the Airlines

Want to get a glimpse of what it’s like working for an airline? The Instagram hashtag #crewlife finds flight attendants and pilots posting photos of what it’s like off-duty. While a quick search brings up acceptable and safe for work photos, I’m wondering how long it’ll take until someone gets fired for not following company guidelines. Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

TSA Pre✓ Now Includes Air Canada

I follow the TSA on Instagram to see the weird items people try to sneak through security, but they post news worthy updates, as well. Air Canada passengers are now eligible for Pre✓, becoming the first international carrier included in the service. Pre✓ is already offered at 115 airports nationwide, with more than 40 of those offering expedited screening to Air Canada passengers.

World’s First Smartwatch Boarding Pass

Printing boarding passes is out. Using your smartphone as a boarding pass is so 2013. airberlin’s iPhone app now let’s you connect with your Pebble, allowing you to board a plane with your watch. Pebble connects with your phone via BlueTooth, and can now display a barcode for your next airberlin flight.

Reebok gets into the adventure tour business

If you’re looking to be a little more active on your next vacation, Reebok may have the outing for you. The shoe company has teamed up with Austin Adventures to offer their first packaged vacations. Destinations include Utah, Costa Rica, and Montana.

AT&T to Offer In-Flight Wi-Fi in Challenge to Gogo

Gogo has long been the major provider of in-flight wifi, but AT&T is looking to enter the market. “Ma Bell” is also looking to offer the first 4G service in the air, using skyward pointing antennas on the ground rather than satellites. Service is expected to start in late 2015.

How Black Boxes Work

If you listen to podcasts, you have probably heard about Stuff You Should Know. I’ve been playing podcast catchup and just got to their episode on how black boxes work and it’s filled with interesting tidbits. The subject matter is a bit morbid, but if you’ve ever wanted to know what goes on with a flight data recorder, give it a listen.

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

SkyMallRockI write for SkyMall

Ever wonder what’s going through the mind of a SkyMall writer? How do write for the sometimes odd, always interesting products featured in your back seat pocket? I write for SkyMall is run by one of those writers, letting you know how products like Confusing Chimp Statue and Alcoholic’s Wine Glass come to be.

IAH design plans unveiled: Terminal D to be replaced by new international terminal

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport is getting a little facelift. Tentatively scheduled to start in 2017, Terminal D will be demolished and replaced with the new Mickey Leland International Terminal. Construction should take five years to complete.

Airport security scrutinized after stowaway incident

After a 15-year-old managed to sneak in to a plane’s wheel well and score a free trip to Hawaii, airports across the country and taking a second look at their security. Members of Congress are asking questions and trying to ensure that another similar incident cannot happen again.

Airlines cash in on unused tickets, change fees

Plans have a habit of changing, and airlines and making a lot of money off of your cancellation fees. How much? $2.5 billion in 2012 alone. This also doesn’t take in to account how much they make off of unused tickets.

Sky High Weddings

Is there a wedding in your future? You may just want to head to Dubai and say your I-do’s almost 700 feet above the Arabian Gulf. What an extraordinary way to say Hello to a new life … and sa Goodbye to a whole lot of money.

Taking It to the Streets

Yours truly is coming out of the skies next week and hitting the pavement. I will be walking 39 miles (yes, walking!) in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. If you’re in the Washington, DC area, come cheer on the thousands who will be hiking though the streets. No air miles for all of this walking (an air mile for every step would be awesome!) though the worthiness of the cause makes up for it.

Posted by Carol Margolis | No Comments

Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

The road to happy: New travel study reveals 4 ways to boost happiness

What make’s a great vacation? A new study tries to narrow down what aspects of a trip bring the most joy, and they found 4 common traits. If you minimize stress, plan ahead, make a local connection, and go far from home, they say it leads to the happiest of vacations.

Airbnb Is in Advanced Talks to Raise Funds at a $10 Billion Valuation

Airbnb is looking to raise a little bit of money … just $10 million. If they do reach their goal, it would make them one of the world’s largest startups, and make them more valuable than Wyndham and Hyatt.

Chicago airports ranked at bottom for arrivals, departures

Ouch! My hometown of Chicagoland was no place to be this winter for traveling through their airports. Read More…

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Do your to-do’s always pop into your head when you’ve got paper/pen in hand or a tablet at your fingertips? Yeah, right! They pop up at the most inconvenient times, then you stress about remembering them later. You most likely have a to-do list for work, a to-do list for your household, and a to-do list for you. You probably even have a to-do list to go through your to-do list! And you want every list accessible to you at all times. How do I know? Because I’m right there with you!

To help manage the to-do’s, reduce your stress, and put a bit of sanity back in your life, here are some great note taking apps that sync up your mind with your lists, no matter where you are.



Evernote has been the industry standard for note taking apps for years.

Personally, I’ve been using Evernote for a while and have found it to be the best note taking application/service for me. Keeping track of everything I have going on at work and at home is easy with Evernote, and the ability to email or text to-do’s to Evernote make it great for clearing out both the mind and mailbox. I have notebooks set up for all areas of my life. Evernote syncs across my phone, tablet, and desktop app with ease. Their free service is great, but you can also spend a few dollars for premium which includes larger uploads, offline editing, smarter searching and more.

Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Mac, & Windows. Read More…

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