Google Flights Getting Even Better

Google LogoMuch to the (probable) dismay of online travel agencies like Hipmunk and Expedia, Google has a feature called Google Flights that shows airline schedules and prices in an easy-to-use format.

Recently, Google Flights has been gaining additional capabilities that make it even more useful to travelers. For example, the site gives an idea of how much legroom a flight has by showing “seat pitch”, like 28″ or 31″ (larger numbers are better). You can also see if a flight offers wi-fi, if seats have power ports, and if there are extra fees for things like seat selection and overhead-bin usage.

Recent additions include price tracking and suggestions for the best days to purchase a ticket (based upon historical price trends).

Note that Google Flights does not show the schedules for every carrier, Southwest Airlines being a notable example.


Another Worry for Children: Will Santa Find Them on Christmas Eve if They Are Away from Home?

HomeAway BuildingHomeAway® is an Austin-based leader in vacation rentals. HomeAway’s corporate headquarters at 5th and Lamar features a human-size birdhouse visible from the street outside. Right now, during the holiday season, the birdhouse is festooned with typical Christmas decorations.

My family frequently uses for lodging in larger cities. HomeAway owns VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). Airbnb and are HomeAway’s largest competitors.

HomeAway analyzed data from popular metro destinations and saw growth in suburban stays during the holiday. Cities that experienced an increase in suburban demand include New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

“This data suggests that holiday travelers are straying away from the city experience and choosing the suburbs to be closer to family, without having to cram everyone into Grandma’s house,” said Melanie Fish, family travel expert at HomeAway.

HomeAway found that the top ten U.S. destinations for holiday travelers are:

o Four Corners, Fla.
o Breckenridge, Colo.
o Park City, Utah
o Kihei, Hawaii
o Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
o San Diego
o Lake Tahoe, Calif.
o Cape Coral, Fla.
o Honolulu
o New York

Family matters to travelers. 95 percent of parents agree it’s important to be with family at Christmas and seven out of ten kids surveyed said their ideal Christmas is spent with their family, according to the 2016 Kid Holiday Survey.

Here is the big worry among younger children traveling during the holidays to see family members: Nearly half (42 percent) of children surveyed fear that Santa won’t be able to find them on Christmas. To ease this concern, HomeAway has an interactive tool,, that lets children communicate with the North Pole about where they will be on Christmas Eve.

Guest Post: Is the Train System Really Too Outdated for Visitors in the US?

_MG_6765The first thing that needs to be said is that the US Rail Transportation system is not used as frequently for passenger transportation as in other parts of the World, like Europe for example. After all, who in their right minds would want to use trains when they can simply fly there? But, what if you are more interested in sightseeing the US countryside, would the trains be an advantage? What about the cost? There are many variable factors which would need to be kept in mind to tackle these questions.

The Costs
Let us start with pricing. Say that you wanted to visit New York and Washington. Both lie on the opposite ends and you will have to cross the whole mainland. Here is a curious comparison of the times it would take to go through them using Trains and Airplanes. The figures may vary in reality, but they will give us a pretty accurate idea.

160425 airline v train travel cost comparison tableAs you can see that for the above routes the savings are there, but clearly the San Antonio – Dallas trip would not be worth the savings, as it would take a lot of time. However, for the New York to Washington Trip a lot of savings can be had, which can then be spent on the accommodation and other expenses. Plus, it would give you a very good idea about the countryside as well.

The savings using Amtrak can be compounded even more, if you use their day passes, which depending on your choice can be issued for a specific number of trips or a specific time period. That is ideal if you wish to travel frequently only spending a day or two at the destinations.

The Experience
Once again, there are a lot of variables that need to be accounted for. But, the major ones include the overall time for travel and your budget. Long flights tend to be generally hectic, when compared to long train commutes. The main reason is that you are advised to remain in your seat in the Airplanes, but you can walk around freely on the train. There are other advantages too. Usually long routes on the trains have comfortable seats even in the economy sections, which can be reclined back fully to sleep. And if you are booked in the sleeper car, then it isn’t very different from a hotel. Then there are the dining and lounge cars. Plus, they have free Wi-Fi on board which means you can stay connected on the go.

You can ensure an even better experience if you take the necessary items with you on the train. These would include light hand carry luggage, a few toiletries, your phone charger, a power strip – if you plan on using multiple devices and having them at full charge, books, and anything else which you need. Most of these, including the bag and power strip, can be bought at really cheap prices using these coupons from Groupon.

Is it viable?
Generally speaking the trains have much going in their favor, except for the overall time taken. And despite my love of trains, even I would not venture to take an 8 hour journey to Dallas. Well not unless, I had a lot of time. If you do have time then even the longer trips can be fruitful. You can watch the beautiful country side or just binge watch Game of Thrones, before the upcoming season 6. So, in conclusion, the train system is not outdated in the US and is ideal for some trips. But on others, it just wouldn’t make sense to spend about 12 hours, if you can fly there in 3.

The Airport Butler Will Be Your BFF at the Airport

Some things are more difficult when you are traveling alone. You have to deal with all your luggage alone, there is nobody to help you at the security lines, nobody will save your seat at the gate while you go to the restroom or to buy a cup of coffee. Until now…

Enter Airport Butler Concierge.

For a fee, the Airport Butler will meet you at the curb when you arrive at your departure airport, help you schlep your luggage (including pets) to check-in and through security, and stay with you until you have boarded your flight. They know the local language and customs, which can be a great benefit.

When you arrive at your destination, the Airport Butler will greet you as you de-plane and accompany you until you are connected with your ground transportation.

At this time Airport Butler Concierge is available only at San Francisco (SFO) and Vancouver (YVR), which are used by tens of thousands of student and vacationing Chinese, but they hope to expand to other airports.

It’s Usually OK to Use the Toilet Even When the Seatbelt Sign is On

The flight attendant can tell you the seatbelt sign is on, but that’s OK.

However, if s/he says that you must return to your seat, you have to obey.

The airline really, really does not want you to soak your seat cushion in urine…it’s so darn hard to sell that seat to another passenger on the next flight.