Welcome to the "The Smart Traveler". Your July 2006 newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.


Check bags when you check out

Some hotels, cruise ships and convention centers will issue your boarding pass, tag your luggage and handle security.

 Tired of dragging your luggage to the airport only to languish in long check-in lines? Many fliers no longer have to.

A growing number of hotels, cruise ships and convention centers will print out your boarding pass, tag your bags and send them through security.
You just show up at the gate, board the plane and claim your luggage at your destination.

Sometimes the service is free; more often, you'll pay fees up to $20 per person.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has cleared only a few companies for such off-airport skycap services. But the service is growing.

Since May 2005, one of the biggest players, Baggage Airline Guest Services, or BAGS, in Orlando, Fla., has doubled the number of airlines and tripled the cities it serves. It works with Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Horizon, JetBlue, Northwest and United and has contracted with two other carriers.

You'll find BAGS in dozen cities, from Boston to Seattle. In California, it works with cruise lines and the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, plus the convention center and the airport in San Francisco. At the airport, it processes bags and boarding passes from the long-term parking garage for $5 per person.

BAGS also works with Walt Disney World in Florida, several cruise lines and several hotel chains. (At Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, spokeswoman Jennifer Liu said the company was evaluating whether to offer such a service.) At LAX, spokeswoman Nancy Suey Castles said the airport was negotiating with BAGS and hoped to add the service by fall at hotels and other sites.

At the Venetian resort in Las Vegas, guests flying on Southwest can grab a few more hours at the casino by checking luggage and getting boarding passes there for McCarran International Airport.

That 2-month-old service, costing $20 per person, is run by a BAGS competitor, Bags to Go Enterprises, based in Las Vegas.

Remote baggage check-in to McCarran is expected to be available soon through America West and the Luxor resort as part of a yearlong pilot program, said Randall Walker, the airport's director.

Elsewhere, Bags to Go works with several cruise lines and airlines.

For more information on Bags to Go,  visit http://www.baggagecheckin.com . For more information on BAGS,  visit http://www.airportbags.com .

  
Marriott goes smokeless

In order to accommodate the preferences of the vast majority of our guests, all Marriott® hotels in the United States and Canada will become 100% smoke-free by October 15, 2006.

This is the industry’s largest move to a smoke-free environment and includes over 2,300 hotels and corporate apartments under the Marriott, JW Marriott®,  Renaissance®, Courtyard®, Fairfield Inn®, SpringHill Suites®, Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites® and Marriott ExecuStay® brands. The new policy includes all guest rooms, restaurants, lounges, meeting rooms, public spaces, and employee work areas.

Currently more than 90 percent of Marriott guest rooms are already non-smoking, and smoking is prohibited in many public spaces due to local laws. Designated smoking areas will be made available outside of the hotel for our guests who smoke.

This policy will enhance the level of service and care we can offer our guests. We hope to see you soon in our new smoke-free hotel environment.

 
The Great Luggage Debate


Look at your fellow road warriors as they run to catch a plane. Check out your colleagues as you pile into that rent a car. Or take a look around the business class lounge the next time you have a two-hour delay. Chances are you'll notice an obvious luggage trend. Quite simply, men prefer to carry their carry-on while women prefer to roll. It's clear that gentlemen prefer garment bags, but does it make sense?

Should you let your sex determine this important travel decision or are there other factors to consider? Which is the better way to go? Here's a guide to help you decide.

Physical - How big are your shoulders? Are you in shape?

Let's face it, men usually have broader shoulders than most women -- and in general they are taller. Garment bags hang better on men -- they can maneuver with them and walk quickly without tripping. Rollerbags are suited to smaller, petite women. Unless you are a woman built like a fabulous supermodel -- does Cindy Crawford even carry her own luggage? - wheeled luggage is probably best.

Your best choice often depends on your physical condition. Even if you switch shoulders while carrying the bag, over-the-shoulder garment bags put continuous, concentrated strain on certain parts of your body. They have been known to cause and aggravate back, neck and shoulder pain. Overloaded garment bags -- are there any other kind? -- are a chiropractor's delight.

Rollerbags allow an even weight distribution of your load. It's important, however, when you are rolling -- that you change sides frequently.

Have you ever had back, neck or shoulder problems? Are you feeling any twinges now as you hoist your garment bag? You might want to switch to a wheeled bag.

Psychological - What's your Image?

Let's face it. Many men don't like "the look" of pulling a rollerbag. Businessman often think of themselves as battle-weary travel veterans, fighting for frequent flier miles around the globe. Remember, Tom Clancy books are best sellers at airports.

The tough guy image might seem hard to maintain when you are pulling the luggage equivalent of a little red wagon. One male financial services sales executive says that his manager discourages men in his department from using rollerbags because it diminishes their macho "go-get-'em" image. Many men feel that rollerbags are effeminate, perhaps because because of their popularity as "stewardess luggage". Whatever the reason, it is hard to get a man to switch to wheeled luggage even when he he is crippled by back and shoulder pain.

Many female business travelers feel they look more pulled-together with rollerbags. A female frequent flier with the same financial services company prefers the roller alternative because it makes her look more professional and organized: "No woman wants to be thought of as a bag lady -- and that's what I look like when I'm hefting an over-the-shoulder bag.”

Consider what type of bag your boss, clients and colleagues use. If it's important that you fit into the organization, you might want to follow along. Duffels say "cool" or "just graduated" ; backpacks : "edgy" and "iconoclastic", garment bags "professional male business traveler " and rollerbags "professional female traveler" or "male traveler who is confident in his masculinity." What image do you want to portray?

Packing - How much stuff do you have?

Garment bags also offer the lure of "more space to stuff" things. Rollerbags with their hard edges provide clear limits on the amount you can pack. If you have trouble organizing your items and limiting what you take, you will probably be better off with a garment bag.

Just remember, the airlines are cracking down and you can't always board with those stuffed garment bags.

In general, suits travel better in garment bags. Ultimately, when you reach your destination, you don't want your business suit to end up as wrinkled and disheveled as you probably feel. Traveling with a suit and considering a rollerbag? Here's the best way to pack your suit in a rollerbag. To pack a suit in duffel or backpack, you have to practice the fine art of rolling your clothes. It is essential to become a packing expert if you want your clothes to arrive with a minimum of wrinkles.


Airport Cell Phone Lots

It's a familiar drill. You wait until the last minute before leaving the house for the airport to pick up an arriving friend or family member, to minimize the wait.

But unless you're lucky, airport police will have to shoo you away from the terminal door a time or two, the result of tighter post-9/11 security. So you drive the airport loop until the traveler arrives.

That, of course, was before airports discovered cell phone lots — free parking areas where the people picking up fliers can simply await the "I'm ready" call from the arriving traveler. In less than two years, cell phone lots have gone from nearly non-existent to commonplace. Almost half of the 50 largest domestic airports now features such lots.

Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles have recently opened cell lots. Phoenix is considering building one more. Orlando plans to build one later this year.

'Jammed in'

They have been popular among travelers, and the heavy air passenger volume in recent months has made them increasingly useful, airport officials say. "As traffic rises, there's only so much you can do to increase capacity in front of the terminals, airports are pretty jammed in. Most airports don't have room to add a lane."

Many airports are undergoing large construction projects, making it easier to reassign space. Some large airports, such as George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, converted an unused lot. Others, such as Phoenix, gave creation of cell lots priority. Airports are also quick to copy competitors' best practices, which may partly explain the fast-rising number of cell lots.

Improving traffic safety was a key motive for Tampa. Before its cell lot opened in November, the large number of cars converging at the terminal forced travelers to cross two or three lanes to get to the car. Some airports impose a time limit to discourage drivers from lingering in the lot. Others have dealt with the issue by requiring drivers to be with their cars at all times.

Some lots have added features

To spur more use, some airports have enhanced their lots. Tampa installed a free Wi-Fi hot spot. A large information board in Phoenix informs drivers of flight delays. Charlotte added a picnic table.

Still, travelers have improvement suggestions. Cell lots that are too far from the terminals would not be popular. Los Angeles airport's cell lot, which is about a mile from the nearest terminal. One traveler says the lot at Bush Intercontinental in Houston is easy to use. "But I sure would like to see a restroom."

TIP: Ask your passengers to locate their luggage before they call you.

Waiting lots at airports

Airport

What airport signs call it

Parking spaces

Time limit

Location

 

Comments

Albuquerque

Cell phone waiting area

40

None

On Girard Boulevard east of Sunport parking lot.

 

Opened a year ago. Plenty of spaces.

Baltimore Washington

Arrival waiting area

50

60 minutes

Aviation Boulevard & Elm Road.

 

Fixes the problem of motorists who park on road shoulders.

Charlotte

Cell lot

57

None

Half a mile north of main terminal.

 

Unattended cars towed.

Chicago Midway

Cell phone lot

90

60 minutes

61st and Cicero Avenue.

 

About 12,000 cars used the lot in June.

Chicago O'Hare

Cell phone lot

150

60 minutes

Next to Economy Parking Lot F.

 

Lot information flier distributed at terminal curbside.

Cincinnati

Cell phone lot

64

None

West of Terminal 1.

 

Part of the lot used for random car inspection by police.

Denver

Cell phone lot

87

45 minutes

3.5 miles southwest of the main terminal.

 

Occasionally patrolled by attendants.

Fort Lauderdale (Opens Labor Day)

Cell phone waiting area

49

None

East of Terminal 1, adjacent to the new rental car center.

 

Sheltered by a freeway overpass.

Houston Bush Intercontinental

Cell phone lots

1,000

None

Both near Will Clayton Parkway and Colonel Fischer Drive

 

Two separate lots.

Los Angeles

Cell phone waiting lot

79

None

On Airport Boulevard, north of Parking Lot C.

 

Buying radio and newspaper ads to promote usage.

Miami

Cell phone lot

60

30 minutes

Le Jeune Road and 31st Street.

 

Occasionally monitored by police and airport employees.

Oakland

Park & call zone

25

30 minutes

Half a mile north of Terminal 1.

 

Half the size of the old cell phone lot.

Philadelphia

Cell phone lot

60

None

On Bartram Avenue, adjacent to the I-95 exit for Cargo City.

 

Shares the lot with car poolers' parking.

Phoenix

Stage & go lot

90

None

West of Terminal 2 parking garage.

 

Features a flight information display, an assistance call box, airlines' phone numbers.

Portland, Ore.

Cell phone waiting area

44

30 minutes

One mile east of the main terminal.

 

Temporary lot. Permanent one is being considered.

Salt Lake City

Park n' wait lot

100

None

Behind Parking Lot A.

 

A flight information display.

San Antonio

Cell phone waiting lot

28

None

West Terminal Drive and South Terminal Drive.

 

Plans to add a flight information board in future.

San Diego

Cell phone waiting lot

50

60 minutes

On North Harbor Drive, near West Laurel Street.

 

Plans to install portable restrooms.

San Jose

Cell phone waiting area

50

30 minutes

Quarter mile south of Terminal C.

 

Will be eliminated by next year. Airport considering a replacement.

Seattle

Cell phone lot

45

30 minutes

On Air Cargo Road, north of the terminals.

 

Three times larger than the previous lot.

Tampa

Cell phone lot

150

None

Near the Economy parking lot.

 

Has a flight information board and free Wi-Fi.

Washington Dulles

Cell phone waiting area

100

60 minutes

West of the main terminal.

 

Fixes the problem of motorists who park on road shoulders.

Reagan Washington National

Cell phone waiting area

34

60 minutes

North of Terminal

 

 

 


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