Tuesday 28 October 2014

Shuddle: Paying strangers to drive your kids? Yes, exactly!

A ride as safe as mom's?
A revolutionary offspring to Uber has recently been launched in San Francisco that will see parents paying strangers to drive their kids to ball practice, ballet, or other recreational / school events.

Shuddle was designed to provide parents with a viable option for a child-minded taxi service. Subject to proper screening (criminal record search, experience with children, and positive past job references), Shuddle's launch has led to more than 100 approved drivers to date (all females).

Parents will book their Shuddle rides no later than 10am the day before and will get a driver profile emailed to them, including a photograph, driving history and reviews. A password will provided by the assigned Shuddle driver to the parents prior to the children entering into this default taxi service, to confirm authenticity. Parents will strictly pay by credit card and, in addition, will be charged a monthly retainer fee of USD 9.00.

The resultant outcome, if it all comes together, will be a new service across North America that will provide a cheaper alternative to that of expensive taxis.

Of course it will likely just take one or two incidents to potentially cause a public relations nightmare for Shuddle. The day a child gets kidnapped, or there is a serious car accident, the uproar could derail this business during its initial launch. Optimistically, however, it is unlikely that one very bad experience will dampen the market demand for a reliable, secure and affordable option for parents desperately looking for someone to shuttle their kids to activities.

In a perfect world, parents would do this job full-time, but in an era of two parents working to make ends meet, this service will likely grow exponentially.

 Related resources:

Saturday 25 October 2014

Layover Ideas: Cusco

Peru , Cusco
Looking out at the rooftops of beautiful Cusco, Peru
(photo: creative commons ianz on Flickr)
Have a layover coming up in Cusco? Wondering what you could do with your time? Here's a little inspiration.

We've gathered the following resources - tips, stories and layover ideas - to help you get the most out of your time here... [read more].

Want more layover ideas?
• Read more stories on the LayoverIdeas Blog
• Explore cities worldwide on LayoverIdeas.com

Related resources
Mugging: are you a target? 10 resources
Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!
Dealing with taxi drivers
Dealing with touts
Airport arrival advice

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Manila's latest colorum taxi scam

Rush Hour
Light traffic in Manila
creative commons, wingmarc on Flickr
In late September, a new Manila colorum taxi scam emerged, targetting Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport passengers. 'Colorum' is a Filipino slang term used to refer to illegal vehicles.The incident occured in Makati, one of the 16 cities that make up Metro Manila.

In this latest Manila taxi scam, while travelling, the car's motor suddenly conks out, forcing the driver to pull over. After checking under the hood, the driver beckons for his passenger to get out, to observe or assist in some way.

Once the passenger is outside the taxi, the driver gets back in, miraculously starts the engine, and speeds off with the passenger's luggage and possessions, leaving the passenger stranded.

The entire incident is facilitated by a hidden switch which the driver uses to turn the engine off and on.

Tip: whatever happens, do not get out of your taxi, or if you must, take your valuables with you! Better yet, stick to official taxis.

There has been a crackdown on colorum vehicles (taxis, buses) in Manila since August 2014, taking hundreds of vehicles off the road.

Related resources:

Friday 17 October 2014

Headed to one of the 10 most dreaded? (2014)

* * Click HERE for 2016 * *


Read below for 2014:
The visually stunning architecture of the immense Hajj Terminal at
Jeddah KAIA Airport, built to handle 80,000 pilgrims simultaneously
(the holes in the roof elements allow natural air-conditioning).
Unfortunately it's still crowded and uncomfortable inside.
(creative commons, FoxyGuy on Flickr)

Yesterday, Sleeping in Airports announced the results of their Best Airports of 2014 and Worst Airports of 2014.

Inspired by the Worst list, our sister-site, LayoverIdeas.com, wrote a corresponding blog post of layover ideas, in case you are headed to one of these famously dreaded airports:

1. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB)
2. Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED)
3. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM)
4. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL)
5. Tashkent International Airport (TAS)
6. Paris Beauvais International Airport (BVA)
7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport (HHN)
8. Milan Bergamo International Airport (BGY)
9. Berlin Tegel International Airport (TXL)
10. New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA)

Click here to read Layover Ideas for the World's Worst Airports.


Wednesday 15 October 2014

Make your own bed and sleep in it at Westin!

Heavenly Bed in Room 470 at the Westin Maui
Do you feel like making your own Heavenly Bed at Westin?
The Westin Hotel chain is now offering you money to make your own bed!

If you ever plan to spend a night or two at Westin Hotels & Resorts in North America, you will now be offered up to $5.00/day voucher for meals or club points to forego housekeeping. The Make a Green Choice microsite touts the green benefits of the promotion. As Westin is part of the Starwood Hotel & Resorts brand, the club points available for those who opt in are Starwood Preferred Guest (aka SPG) points.

The $5 a day can add up quite quickly, if you are a frequent traveler and spending multiple nights in the same hotel chain. And let's be perfectly honest here - who really needs their room cleaned every day anyhow? There are enough towels in the room to last several days and most of us are quite hygienic to avoid daily bed sheets being changed.

Do I get a treat for making my own bed?
Undoubtedly what Westin is doing will spread amongst other competing hotel chains, where the practice of incentifying customers with discounts, in order to pass on expected hotel services, will become the norm. Arguably, this could be yet another silent war to reduce the costly requirement of human labour in society, but ultimately, in the era of reward points, it will likely be widely popular among consumers.

At Westin, the front desk staff will offer you this incentive once you check-in, but thereafter they place the onus on you to bring down your coupons upon check-out or earlier in order to cash-in. If you forget these coupons in your room, or misplace them somewhere else, then your benefit becomes null and void and the hotel wins free and clear.

The program is also loaded with restrictions. You can't, for example, use your $5 towards an alcoholic drink. While you can use the coupon at the local Starbucks, how far does that $5 go? A small coffee, perhaps?

And how green is printing all those coupons? "If this was a truly green choice there should be an option not to get the cards and for Starwood to just post the points or take $5 off your bill for services. It can't be that hard to do it electronically and it would save paper," argues OasisNYK on  FlyerTalk forums.

Regardless, the truth is in how the program is working out - from the customer's perspective. A quick read of the Make a Green Choice Issues thread in the FlyerTalk forums reveals many inconsistencies, from coupons promised but not delivered and hotels running out of the cards, to inadequate garbage cans for guests to dump their own trash in to promised SPG rewards not assigned. Or how about the room cleaning that takes place despite opting in - or, worse, no room cleaning for guests who opt out of the program entirely? It does seem guests are spending an inordinate amount of time chasing down the supposed benefits of going green.

The hotel's argument is about "making a green choice" but let's get real: ultimately, this about saving money and passing a (small) portion of such reductions onto the consumer. Is it worth it to you as a guest?

Look for Westin Hotels & Resorts to extend their program globally later on next year. Let's hope they make it a whole lot greener (goodbye paper cards?), simpler and consistent before doing so.

Related resources:

Thursday 9 October 2014

Travel in the time of Ebola

Perhaps a fitting symbol for worldwide sadness about Ebola
Photo: John LeGear, creativecommons (more info)
With all the buzz about Ebola and airport screenings, what's a traveller to do? Is it really OK to be "out there"? In a word, yes.

 If you already travel saavy, you know about - and hopefully practice - road warrior street smarts: wash your hands (frequently, with soap), wipe down surfaces, carry sanitizer (but don't overuse it), drink plenty of sealed bottled water, get plenty of sleep and enjoy your journey.

Weighing in on the subject, is Robert L. Quigley, MD, D.Phil, Regional Medical Director and Vice President of Medical Assistance, Americas Region, International SOS. In his piece, Ebola Outbreak Spreads Across Three Countries: What Do Travelers Need to Know? for @HuffPostTravel, Quigley advises, "For travelers, it means staying away from affected areas, and avoiding contact with people who are sick as well as practicing strict attention to hygiene."

Unless you are travelling to one of the Ebola hot zones in Africa (it's a big continent), then these actions will serve you well. Of course, pay attention to travel advisories for your destination, and check for updates periodically. Common sense will get you further than panic.

DON'T be alarmed if you see overt health screening in an airport. Rather, see this as the authorities taking the necessary measures to protect everyone.

An excuse to buy gloves?
If you tend towards the panic end of the spectrum, then add some face masks and disposable gloves to your backpack. Hopefully, knowing they are there, will help you relax. Heck, pick up a lovely pair of gloves on your travels and wear them whenever you feel like it (who cares how silly you look?). They won't necessarily protect you how you imagine they will, but if they keep you from giving in to panic, then fine, whatever it takes.

And if you do feel yourself starting to get run down, take it as a sign to take time out - get a decent place to stay, curl up with a book, eat well and rest. Then hit the road again. Your immune system will thank you.

In her piece for @Forbes, Ebola, Erupting Volcanoes, Terrorism: Travel Tips For Scary Times, author Lea Lane brings much needed perspective, "The bottom line is to keep traveling: using your head, trusting your gut, controlling as much as you can — and realizing that you can’t control everything."

We couldn't agree more.

"Travel should continue and be an exciting adventure. With the right precautions in place, it should also be a safe endeavor," says Quigley. 

Related resources: