Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Verdict is still out on FlightCar

Boston, Logan Airport and the 911 Memorial from the roof of Central Parking
FlightCar offers its peer-to-peer car rentals at Boston Logan Airport (BOS)
Photo: Boston, Logan Airport and the 911 Memorial from the roof of Central Parking (wikicommons)

- by Todd Romaine

Its been about a year since FlightCar launched itself with the attempt to radically change the way travelers thought about car rentals and airport parking.

The concept behind FlightCar is to give those that drive their vehicles to the airport a chance to get free parking and a profit in return for allowing the middleman (FlightCar) to rent out their car during their absence. FlightCar's peer-to-peer carsharing model allows travelers the ability to rent private vehicles at a fraction of the cost, in comparison to national and international car rental companies. Think Airbnb for cars.

Since its initial launch last year, FlightCar has expanded from San Francisco to now include Los Angeles and Boston. Despite the oddity of the business model, FlightCar has signed up more than 15,000 members and have had some major financial backers confident that this trend will become a new American, if not global, phenomena.

FlightCar has received some hang-ups, especially from the airport authorities, who want an expensive take on the action. While legal proceedings are ongoing between the various entities, other companies similar to FlightCar have moved in to negotiate contracts with airport authorities and modify their business model to ensure potential customer acquisition is relatively unaffected by cutting another groups into the profit stream.

It is hard to say whether this is a niche market or something that can spread throughout the world. My personal take is that I would only sign-up for this program if I owned a car that had little financial value and where I was relatively indifferent to the wear and tear caused by strangers utilizing my car. It would probably just take one costly mechanical breakdown to conveniently link the expensive bill to the indifference other drivers would have towards my car. And such an experience would probably permanently sour me if the cost was even slightly greater than generated profits.

Everyone, of course, is different. For many, free airport parking, a cleaned car upon arrival and cheque in your pocket after a long trip would be well worth it.

In it's latest twist, FlightCar is going after business travellers, paying them to share their cars - for a fee.

Predictably, international and national car rental agencies may need to lower their cost margins to drown out FlightCar eventually, if it becomes a threat. Likely however, FlightCar would remain a minority player when it comes to the lucrative car rental industry.

While ihatetaxis.com does not offer FlightCar services yet, we do provide very competitive car rental rates at airports around the globe.

Todd Romaine is one of the two Canadian brothers who were the brainchild behind the IHateTaxis.com website. For the story behind our name, read Do we really hate taxis?

Related content:
Need to rent a car? Check out ihatetaxis.com airport car rental rates.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Airport Parking Wars

MSP Entrance
USA airport parking will put a dent in your pocketbook. Why not leave the car at home?
There was an interesting article in the most recent Travel + Leisure, about the Most Expensive Airport Parking in America.

Curious, T+L wondered which airports in the United States have the most expensive parking lots, and posed the question to BestParking (the company monitors parking rates at 100+ airports in North America, and suggests alternatives).

We commend the researchers; it's a good study, with traveller-friendly information, and a well-researched, specific alternative for each airport. If you live near one of the worst offending airports, and tend park your car at the airport when you travel, check out the full story here.

Here, IHateTaxis seeks to complement the study with our take on alternatives to taking your car to the airport in the first place. Who needs more cars on the road anyways?

Plus, if you leave your car at home, you don't need to worry about theft, dings, hail damage, a dead battery, a flat tire, or skyrocketing costs if your return is delayed. And, unlike parking, our transportation suggestions won't increase in price if you are away for an extended period.

No. 1. Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)
 
No. 2. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
 
No. 3. New York John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
 
No. 4. New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA)
 
No. 5. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
 
No. 6. San Diego International Airport (SAN)

No. 7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • What they found on-site: $18-28/day
  • What they suggest off-site: private parking at $9/day
  • What IHateTaxis suggests: take BART (unless it is on strike, that is)
  • More SFO transfer options: San Francisco Airport Transportation Guide

No. 8. Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

No. 9. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

No. 10. Newark International Airport (EWR), serving New York City

So, that's our take on the top 10. The T + L article goes onto the 11th to 20th worst, which we'll review in an upcoming blogpost.

* Our hearts go out to those injured or traumatized by the train accident at O'Hare. We make our recommendation in the context of the value and convenience that this service offers, on the assumption that safe changes and repairs will be made.

Related content:

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

In good company: Frugal Travel Guy feature

We were delighted to be featured on the Frugal Travel Guy blog today, in Need to Research Your Next Destination? DO THIS!, by Christine Krzyszton.

http://www.frugaltravelguy.com/2014/03/need-to-research-your-next-destination-do-this.html
We are blushing, of course... but we are in good company, and happy to top this list of great travel research tools:
Like you, we were familiar with many of these tools, but not all, so were doubly appreciative of this type of feature because we found some new tools too!

If you are new to us, the IHateTaxis team hopes you enjoy discovering our website, and will return again and again to utilize our tools.

Related resources:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Spotlight on Sochi transportation

Night View of Sochi During Olympics
Incredible picture of Sochi taken on February 10, 2014 - during the Olympic games

One of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the International Space Station downlinked this vertical 600mm night view of Sochi, Russia, which clearly shows the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics while they are just a few days under way. Fisht Stadium where the Opening Ceremonies were held on Feb. 7 is easily recognizable as the bright circular structure.

Photo credit: NASA (click photo for full information)
With all eyes on Sochi. we thought we'd share a bit more on Sochi Airport and transportation in the region. Afterall, the region will be the centre of attention in a few weeks with the start of the Paralympics. If you missed it, check out our recent blog post: Getting to/from Sochi Airport... with a little luck ☘

Takeoff
Takeoff of Russian TU-154 airplane from Sochi international airport.(2007)
We love the photo above, even though it is not recent. It's just a great planespotting moment, with the Sochi area as it "was".

For a much more recent perspective, check out this incredible satellite image from NASA, taken in 2013, as Sochi's expanded infrastructure was nearing completion:
Sochi, Russia 2014
Interesting view of Sochi Airport!

2013 image of Adler and the newly created Olympic Coastal Cluster.

This false color satellite image reveals a largely agricultural area that was transformed into the
Coastal Olympic Cluster with the nearby Olympic Village and Rail Station with transport to
the Mountain Cluster. A spanking new breakwater structure was installed to create a harbor
for cruise ships. The airport also received an expansion to handle the increased traffic.

Caption and image provided by Tim Assal, US Geological Survey – Fort Collins Science Center
Credit: NASA/Landsat (click photo for full information)

The following images were all found using a Creative Commons search using either "Sochi" or "Сочи". Can't say we know exactly what the story is behind each image (some have captions in Russian!), but they all have something to do with Sochi and transportation.

Russian "Air Force One"
Putin's plane, at Sochi Airport in 2012

Sochi Olympics Adler 13
Church at Sochi Airport

Samsung Electronics' Cruise Side Ad Wrap for Sochi Olympic Games
Sponsor ad-wrap on cruise ship in Sochi port during the Olympics

Samsung Electronics' Billboards for Sochi Olympic Games
More sponsorship ads... and a Sochi bus!!

Atos - at the Winter Olympic Games - Olympic Park- Sochi Adventure park hotel
Check out the blimp

And, finally, a few Sochi Airport tweets....

Notice the missing gold? This was pre-games...

 


 




And a little bonus....
Sochi railroad terminal clock
Clock in Sochi train terminal, taken in 2007 (still there?)

Thursday, 6 February 2014

2013 Taxi Stories: The GOOD, BAD & UGLY

We're not far into the new year, so we are still reflecting on some of the more interesting taxi stories in the last year...

The GOOD:

Hamar, Norway
You're in a taxi in Norway... driven by the Prime Minister?

One of the coolest stories to emerge last year was when Norway's Prime Minister,
Jens Stoltenberg, donned a taxi driver's uniform and got behind the wheel of a taxi
in Oslo, to find out what his constituents really think. Read the story here.

The BAD:

Ufa
What's inside this ambulance in Moscow? A heart attack victim or leather couches and caviar?

It's so hard to get through the streets in Moscow that a new mode of
transport has emerged, as described in this story that emerged in 2013:
'Sick' in style: Meet the new Russian ambulance luxury taxi.
Read the full story here.
The UGLY:

Chicago
Really, what's the worst that can happen if you accept a ride from a driver in a Chicago airport?

In 2013, Chicago hatched one of the worst taxi scam stories we've seen. Not only for how deep it gouged, but for how heartless it was. Here's how it went down: a Chinese student, speaking little English, lands at Chicago O'Hare Airport, and is approached by a taxi driver... Read the full story here.

A few other notable taxi stories from 2013:

Read these posts in our Smart Travel Advice series:
In case you have missed it, please read our post: Do We Really Hate Taxis?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Getting to/from Sochi Airport... with a little luck ♣

Sochi Adler International Airport 02
How to get to Sochi from the airport? Is there a Sochi Airport train? Is car hire at Sochi Airport possible?
Just some of the questions on the minds of travellers headed to the Sochi 2014 Games...

Welcome to Сочи (Sochi). We are trying to help you get to and from Sochi Airport, but we're hoping for a little luck.

Luck, because information is more scarce than we would expect for an airport paying such a central role in a major world event. Case in point: the Sochi Olympic Games open in less than a month, and if you search for "Sochi airport official", this is what you get:

Oh dear. While we appreciate that the Games' Russian hosts may not hold communications to the same standard as the West, we surely expected a higher requirement from the IOC. Well, perhaps they have bigger fish to fry at the moment.

That makes our job even more important than ever, in making our Sochi Airport (AER) Transportation Guide as complete as possible. The only problem is, that source information truly is lacking. We have been scouring the web, but we aren't finding much, or we're finding conflicting information. But we are putting the best information here:

We are eager to have our guide as complete as possible, to help as many people as we can, but we're in the dark here. If you have seen, or you have, more or different information on ground transportation at Sochi Airport, including special alternate arrangements during the Games, please add your comments below.
 
Please leave your Sochi Airport transportation tips in the comments below!

On the subject of luck, perhaps it is only fitting that we are calling on luck to help us out here, as Sochi is considered to be a very ♣ lucky ♣ place:
The most famous Russian saying about the city is "If I could read the cards, I would live in Sochi" ("Знал бы прикуп - жил бы в Сочи"). Initially coming from the Preference card game, this saying shows the association of Sochi and its inhabitants with luck, moreover, with an accidental and unpredictable fortune.
Source: WikiVoyage
Sochi Adler International Airport 05
Inside Сочи Airport (aka Sochi Airport)


To help you with your luck in getting to and around Sochi, we've listed some additional links below, but here's our favourite:

Is Отменен a good thing? (no, your flight is cancelled)
What Посадка does mean? (your flight is boarding... hurry!)
It says Посадка закончена, should I run? (don't bother, you missed your flight!)
For more, see this Russian Flight Information Board Translation Guide

Official Sochi 2014 travel, transportation and airport information:
If you are visiting Sochi, you may find our Moscow airport ground transportation guides helpful:
Related resources:

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

How many countries have you visited?

by Todd Romaine
globe road
Are you a globetrotter?
I am sure most of us have been asked at some point in our lives, ‘where have you travelled to before?’

Most people in the world never visit more than 2 countries in their lives. This obviously is different for people from developed countries. Consider these statistics:
  • In the United States, approximately 4 out of every 5 people at some point in their lives leaves the country usually for a visit to Mexico or Canada, and about 2 out of every 5 people in the US travel to at least 4 foreign countries in their lifetime.
  • In Europe, where geographical real estate amongst the numerous countries is small, more of its citizens have travelled internationally and too multiple countries.
  • On a global basis, the biggest travellers in the world hail from Germany and they happen to spend the most amount of money when they are overseas.
  • The United States is 2nd, the United Kingdom is 3rd and Canada is a distant 8th.

Our obsession with counting


distance Keeping the track of the number of countries you have been to, for some, symbolizes a sense of personal accomplishment of being international/well-travelled/cosmopolitan.

For many travel enthusiasts, marking your travel is done simply by memory, a physical map in your home office with pins indicating visits, or the ‘where have I been’ application in Facebook.

I confess that my brother and I had an immature contest going for many years on who has travelled most extensively around the world. The common benchmark was always the number of countries one would visit. I soon became aggravated by this seemingly unfair tabulation as he would take a cruise in the Caribbean for 6 days and cross off 3-4 countries with a casual afternoon in the various ports walking along the beach with a beer in his hand while I criss-crossed from Russia’s Far East to Russia’s Far West (9 time zones) over a period of a month and would only get credit for 1 country. I guess the competition could be reconfigured in my favour to base it on the number of miles we have traveled over the year but who counts that stuff?!

Inevitably this general discussion leads to some technical unanswered inquiries and ensuing confusion on what constitutes being to a particular country. Some people count a brief stopover in a particular airport as a country, while others do not. Some people count a full day in a particular location as grounds for legitimacy while other use several days to a week to count it accordingly.

Guidelines for counting


Before you start counting, here are some ground rules to consider for counting or not counting a country in your travels:


Transiting in a foreign airport does not count if you do not get out of the plane or if your transit is confined to the airport. No, I am sorry but walking outside of the terminal where others are smoking or a block away does not count! This would fit into the category of ‘airport layovers’ but not countries visited. Bottom line, if you are not leaving the airport premise and immediate area you are not really seeing a country first hand.
Karla Lumpa Transit Lounge
In transit at Kuala Lumpur Airport
Transiting in a foreign airport, leaving the airport for a temporary period of time and making it down to the city/town’s central business district or surrounding suburbs does count towards your country count. Even if it is only 2-3 hours, you have been to that country, walked around, and were off airport grounds. It barely counts, but it does count.
couple taking selfie eiffel tower
A whirlwind Paris layover counts
Transiting by train, car, or bus across another country but not leaving the train, car, or bus does not count as visiting that country. Yes I realize you were physically present when the train, car, or bus went through Luxembourg but you never got out, walked around, did normal stuff.
DSC09320
Does Luxembourg train station count?
Transiting by boat near the coastline of another country but not stepping foot in that country does not constitute visiting that country. If you went to shore for some time, walked around, saw people and buildings then this would barely constitute a visit, but a visit nonetheless.
Waving good bye
Malta counts only if you go ashore
Flying over a country does not count. Even if you fly over in a small plane at low attitude and can make out details on the ground, flying over a country does not count. It does not count unless you land and leave the airport premises, ideally the nearby city/town central business district.
Nice and Monaco view from the plane
Monaco from the air does not count!
Islands that are not countries, count for countries if they are at a considerable distance (200 miles away) from the home country. So if you have previously been to the United Kingdom, and go to Guernsey or Jersey, this does not count as a separate country. However if you fly or sail to Bermuda, then this counts as a separate country, even though it belongs to the UK. Yes, Hawaii and the Cook Islands would count here.
BERMUDA 05_0573 Welcome
You can count Bermuda
Regional autonomous areas / former countries count as countries – if you go to Tibet, consider this as additional country beyond China. It is at great distance from Beijing and therefore such a trip there warrants an additional count. Scotland, Wales, Western Sahara, Hong Kong, Macau, Greenland etc. constitute regional autonomous zones and count. Places like Texas, Alaska, Tasmania, Stewart Island or Nunavut do not count. 
Me myself and I in Tibet
You bet, a visit to Tibet counts
Non-recognized legitimate states count in your calculation: Republic of Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Somaliland, Kosovo, Western Sahara while non-recognized non legitimate states do not count: Swan River, Sea Island etc.
NC and North Cyprus 2009 117
A visit to Northern Cyprus counts
Antarctica counts as one country and even offshore islands that are owned by another country count as one country (South Shetland Islands, Bouvet Island, Heard Island etc.).
South Shetland Islands, Antarctica
South Shetland Islands = Antarctica
The Vatican is considered a country and counts accordingly.

Vatican City State, its official name, is a landlocked sovereign city-state within the city of Rome. The walled enclave territory has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), making Vatican City smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world.
IT10AIU Me at Saint Peter's, Vatican 2010
Visit Italy and the Vatican = 2
Created with the HTML Table Generator

Go ahead and add up your numbers…what do you get?

Perhaps you've set a New Year's Resolution with regards to how many countries you will visit in the year ahead. Or maybe you have "bucket list" that you are tackling.

Whichever way you slice it, we're interested in hearing what pin, or pins, will you add to your 'places visited' travel map this year?


Related reading:

Monday, 16 December 2013

Travel Tax Squeeze: Best and Worst USA Cities

Here's interesting news if your travels take you to major cities in the USA.

This past week, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released its annual travel tax report on car rentals, hotels and restaurants in 50 top USA cities. Of most interest to travellers are what the GBTA calls "discriminatory travel taxes", which are taxes imposed specifically on travel services, above and beyond general sales taxes. Here are a few highlights.

Worst USA Cities for Travel Taxes

Rental car back-up
Rental car return backup at Portland Airport - the USA city with the highest
discriminatory travel tax rate - that will effect your rental car bill
The top 10 U.S. cities with the highest discriminatory travel tax rates are:

2013 RankCity$ over general sales tax
1 Portland (OR) $22.86
2 Boston $19.34
3 Indianapolis $18.10
4 Minneapolis $17.46
5 Chicago $17.39
6 New York $15.96
7 Washington, D.C. $15.61
8 Kansas City $15.26
9 Charlotte $15.16
10 Milwaukee $15.04

Minneapolis jumped up two spots over 2012 (from 6 to 4), and Washington D.C. jumped up four spots (from 11 to 7).

Best USA Cities for Travel Taxes
Mazda 6 in Death Valley California
Enjoy your rental car in California, the taxes won't break the bank

You may be interested to know that California and Florida are among the states with the lowest discriminatory travel tax rates in the country, making them tourist friendly.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the lowest discriminatory travel tax rates are:

2013 RankCity$ over general sales tax
1 Burbank $1.58
2 Orange County $3.16
3 Ontario (CA) $4.48
4 San Diego $5.27
5 Oakland $5.79
6 * Tampa $7.27
7* Fort Lauderdale  $7.27
8* Fort Myers $7.27
9* West Palm Beach $7.27
10 Los Angeles $7.37
* tie

The biggest change since 2012 was Los Angeles, which dropped from 5th to 10th.

More...

The information gathered by the GBTA is helpful, and we are appreciative of the level of detail the organization shares in its press releases, allowing us to share it with you. You may also be interested in the total travel tax burden rankings - just refer to the references below for more.

All information in this blog post is from the following Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) press releases:

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Los Angeles Airports: Which is best? (BUR, LAX, LGB, ONT, SNA)


The Greater Los Angeles region relies on a multiple airport system because of its vast size. Many of the area's most popular attractions are closest to alternative airports. Here we examine five LA airports, to help you determine the best one for your trip.



 
→ Frequently hated, and much maligned, here are some things you may not know about LAX.

I'm stuck with a valuable friend
The distinctive LAX Theme Building

Los Angeles Airport transportation tips:
  • There is a free shuttle that runs between all terminals [learn more]
  • Parking? Try this: park at the small Van Nuys Airport (VNY)  , then take the LAX FlyAway direct shuttle to LAX (cheap parking + arrive stress free) [learn more]
  • No, there is no LAX Airport train, but it's still pretty easy to take the subway: the airport runs a free shuttle to the closest metro station [learn more]

We love LAX for:
  • Jetson inspired layover dining in the Encounter Restaurant in the LAX Theme Building [learn more]
  • Free weekend viewing at the Observation Deck [learn more]
  • OK, love is a bit of an oxymoron here, but these are redeeming factors...

LAX quick links:




→ Closest to: Hollywood, Rosebowl Statium and Griffith Park
 
Bob Hope Airport Amtrak
Burbank Bob Hope Airport has its own train station!

Burbank Airport transport tips:
  • It's easy to get into downtown Los Angeles by train!
  • The airport's train station (walking distance) is served by Metrolink and Amtrak [learn more]
  • A free shuttle runs between the terminal and 2 metro stations [learn more]
  • Hop the Burbank Bus at BUR to transfer to Universal Studios [learn more]

We love BUR for:
  • The awesome train connections!
  • Their new loyalty program
  • Initiatives to acknowledge contributions of former Lockheed employees

BUR quick links:


Long Beach Airport (LGB)

→ Closest to: Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach

Zeppelin Eureka coming into land Long Beach Airport
Look up: you might see a blimp over Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport transport tips:
  • A taxi from LGB to downtown LA is expensive [learn more]
  • For not much more, you can take a LGB Airport limo [learn more]
  • A taxi to the nearest Metro Rail station is USD 13.35 [learn more]
  • Bus service is available into Long Beach, but is infrequent [learn more]

We love LGB it for:
  • Fantastic airfield view, good for planespotting banner-towing aircraft and blimps
  • Wine bar with comfy outside seating and a fire pit (!)
  • The 1941 Streamline Moderne architecture and mosaics [learn more]

LGB quick links:



LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT)

→ Closest to: Riverside and San Bernardino
 
ONT ONTARIO INTL AIRPORT FROM FLIGHT LAS-LAX N516NK A319 (10378086305) (2)
LA / Ontario Airport from above

LA / Ontario Airport transportation tips:
  • There is no airport train, but there is good bus service
  • Note: LAX flights due to weather usually land at ONT

We love ONT for:
  • The handy trip calculator comparing the time you'll save vs BUR, LAX, LGB and SNA
  • Walking distance to Ontario or the Ontario Mills Mall in about 25 minutes

ONT quick links:



Orange County John Wayne Airport (SNA)

→  Closest to Disneyland, Honda Center and Angel Stadium
 

Orange County Airport postcard, 1970s
Fabulous vintage postcard of Orange County Airport
 Orange County Airport transportation tips:
  • The Disneyland Resort Express runs from the SNA to the Anaheim/Disneyland     area
  • There is no train service, but bus service is pretty good, some connecting to Metrolink
  • The airport is sometimes referred to as Santa Ana Airport

We love SNA for:

SNA quick links:

mr wayne
John Wayne statue outside his namesake airport