All posts in One-on-One

2015 Travel Tech Update – One on One with Dave Dean, Travel Technology and Gear Expert

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Dave Dean, a corporate refugee turned world wanderer who writes about travel and technology. Dave writes for popular sites, including About.com, NomadicMatt, as well as his own blog, toomanyadapters.com.  He also authored a book on travel tech, Hammocks and Hard Drives.

Dave discusses the hot trends in travel technology now, including wearables, real-time video streaming, can’t-live-without apps, as well as gadgets that make life on the road a little more like home.

What’s the hottest trend in travel tech right now?

Everyone is getting excited about wearables, although I haven’t found any compelling examples for travelers yet. There’s also a seemingly-endless stream of startups with apps offering some kind of ‘social travel’ experience, but again, none have become must-have travel companions with a broad user base. Real-time video streaming (eg. Periscope) is starting to show up in the travel space — it’s obviously dependent on having good connectivity, but I’d expect to see this continue to grow. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much the same things it’s been for a while — easier and cheaper ways to stay connected overseas, extra battery life and more storage on mobile devices.

Are you seeing any interesting developments across hotel chains and airlines that involve technology as a way to make vacations or business travel more like home or just more convenient?

I tend to find the best developments coming from startups and third parties, rather than the hotel chains and airlines themselves. Apps like Lounge Buddy, for instance, let you know which lounges you already have access to in any given airport on your route, and which ones you can buy day passes for, along with reviews and tips. That said, some of the hotel chains are doing interesting things — you can use your phone or Apple watch as your room key in Starwood hotels, as well as choose your room in advance and speed up the check-in / check-out process with hotel apps. I’d expect to see much more of this type of convenience in the next few years.

What are some of the best gadgets and gizmos for making life on the road better?

I’m always trying out some new gadget or other while traveling, but tend to find it’s the simple things that are most useful. For instance, I have a portable battery with extra storage space built in, that lets me charge my phone during a long travel day and save photos or video to it if I’m running out of space. You can get the same things built into an iPhone case as well, for extra convenience. I always take a travel-sized power strip with me — there are never enough power sockets in hotel rooms, and it lets me charge up to four devices simultaneously with one socket (and one plug adapter!). I’ve also recently started using a little adapter with 4 USB ports in, that includes detachable plugs for most countries. That way, I can charge (for instance) a phone, tablet and e-reader at the same time, from one wall socket.

Any useful recommendations for making airline travel less stressful and more comfortable?

An eye mask and noise-cancelling earphones or at least decent earplugs. I bought myself a good pair of noise-isolating earphones a couple of years ago, and they’ve transformed my travel days. I found that noisy passengers and the drone of the engine caused extra stress and made it hard to rest on flights. Now I just put on some relaxing music, pull down the eye mask and chill out. It makes even long-haul in economy class somewhat bearable!

ExpertFlyer recently surveyed more than 1,000 family travelers.  We asked them to name their top “can’t live without” travel apps, and TripAdvisor reigned supreme, followed by airline apps and Google maps.  What’s your take?  What are your top picks?

Google Maps is great — and with the addition of proper offline navigation later this year, it’ll get even better for international travelers without mobile data. I’m always dubious about the accuracy of the information on TripAdvisor, but do occasionally use it to get food recommendations in more obscure cities. The forums are the most useful part, for me — I’ll often use those for tracking down obscure transport routes and prices, for instance. As far as airline apps go, I tend to use Skyscanner to look up prices and times, but I’ll always make the booking on a computer — entering personal information and credit card details is too frustrating otherwise!

I have many travel apps on my phone, but those I use the most include Tripit (for compiling my itinerary, even offline), Google Translate (great for menus and street signs), XE Currency (to always know the exchange rate), Google Maps (if I’ve got data) and Here Maps (for offline use). 

Looking forward, what are some of the cool travel tech advances we might find in the next 3-5 years?

I expect we’ll see the first wearables (probably smartwatches) that are genuinely valuable for travel. Cell companies are finally starting to get the message we all hate roaming charges, and the example set by T-Mobile in the US and Three in the UK will expand to other carriers. Speech translation in real-time is starting to show up now with Skype Translator, and will become more polished and usable in the next few years. Free public wi-fi will continue to get rolled out in cities all over the world, making it easier than ever to stay connected on the move.

 

Boomer Travel Trends: One on One with Liz Dahl, Boomer Travel Patrol

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Liz Dahl, founder and president of BoomerTravelPatrol.com, a new travel website that specifically caters to the interests of fun-seeking, travel-loving Baby Boomers (1946-1964).  Liz talks about the many gaps Boomer Travel Patrol fills for the 50+ traveler set wanting to do a lot more than just bus trips and cruises! A key differentiator is the site’s cadre of top class contributors covering a unique variety of areas and backgrounds from the mindset of a Boomer.

“Because baby boomers are not in the coveted 18-49 demographic, we get left out of the “fun” activities when it comes to travel. Sure, bus trips and cruises are great and have their place, but there’s a lot more to see and do and we have the time and means to explore the world!” – Liz Dahl

When and why did you launch Boomer Travel Patrol and how has the site been received?

The site was launched in July of 2013. As a former owner of a travel agency and currently selling travel, I noticed that there was a lack of choices being offered to the Baby Boomer demographic. The “cruise and bus tour” mentality of the advertisers didn’t work for me or most of the people who contacted me about trips. I wanted Boomers to know the travel opportunities that exist. Continue reading →

ONE-ONE-ONE WITH “FEAR OF FLYING” EXPERT, CAPTAIN TOM BUNN, LCSW & AUTHOR OF SOAR

ExpertFlyer goes one-on-one with Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and author of SOAR, a best-selling book and program to overcome the fear of flying.  Bunn, a retired airline captain and licensed therapist, talks about post-9/11 fears of flying, the recent Germanwings crash and how to minimize psychological stressors based on real or imagined safety threats in the air.  A recognized expert, Bunn has been featured on national media outlets, including Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, Newsweek, The New York Times, among others.

Some of us are vulnerable to what the media is doing. But, others have developed immunity. According to one recent survey, fear of flying is at an all-time low.” – Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and Author of SOAR

On the heels of the Germanwings Flight 9525 plane crash in the French Alps, it has come to light that co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was researching suicide methods on the Internet days leading up to the crash. What are your reactions to this news both as a former airline captain and as a licensed therapist? Should someone have picked up on this earlier?  Why didn’t they?

In aviation, safety depends on two things: 1. Maintaining control, so problems don’t develop; 2. In case a problem does develop, always have a backup that will take care of it.

For example, when the Boeing 777 was being designed, Todd Curtis, Ph.D. (who now runs www.airsafe.com) had two jobs. His first assignment was to think of everything that could possibly go wrong in-flight. Then, he had to develop a solution – it might be a procedure, or it might be a change in engineering – that would get the plane back on the ground safely in spite of the problem.

In the U.S., someone realized what happened on Germanwings was possible and developed a protocol to prevent it. That should have been done everywhere, but it wasn’t. Continue reading →

One on One with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO of smarTours

greg geronemus, smartours.comThis month, ExpertFlyer talks with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours (www.smarTours.com), a discount group tour provider specializing in high quality packages to some of the world’s most fascinating countries. We’ll learn how SmarTours has carved a niche in a crowded and competitive travel tour market for more than 20 years.

“We’re seeing all of South America really shine in 2015, and one of the most pleasant surprises is Colombia. It’s a wonderful, diverse destination, and it’s a wonderful turnaround story for a country that has certainly had its challenges.”

Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours


 You say that the persistent labeling of international travel as outrageously expensive is now a misnomer.  Why?

There is a real misconception about the cost of international travel that the travel industry has perpetuated for far too long. Our peers have successfully tricked the American consumer into thinking that international travel must be extremely expensive, and the consequences are tragic, in my opinion. Many Americans simply assume that places like Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America are out of reach, and just as problematic, when travelers come across affordable prices, they are trained to ask what the catch is or look for what’s wrong with the offer. The opposite should be true – the American traveler should expect affordability and ask why all the outrageously expensive travel offers cost so much. Continue reading →

One-on-One with Murat Karakus, Director, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

murat karakus, turkish tourismThis month, ExpertFlyer talks with Murat Karakus, Director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (TCTO), based in New York City. Murat shares the latest and lauded cultural and tourism attractions from this remarkable ancient country. With the oldest known human settlement in the world, Turkey truly represents the cradle of civilization, and many other achievements, including two of the seven ancient wonders of the world; the birthplace of Homer, St. Paul the Apostle, King Midas, among others — And now this bi-continental land pulses as a leading modern day travel destination with a unique blend of traditions, cultures and beauty.

“Turkey has made giant strides in the past decade by increasing its economy to $US820 billion, making it the 17th largest economy in the world, sixth largest economy compared with EU countries and the sixth most-visited tourist destina-tion in the world behind only France, the United States, China, Spain and Italy.”

– Murat Karakus, director, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

It’s difficult to know where to start when one wants to discover Turkey. There are few destinations with as many “firsts” and “only” descriptors. Let’s start with some of the most historically significant attributes. What do historians fall in love with and clamor to see when visiting Turkey?

Turkey is considered to be one of the richest and diverse countries in terms of archaeology and is by far the biggest “open air museum” in the world.

A bridge between the East and West, Turkey has been noted by scholars as the “melting pot” of various peoples and where classical culture was shaped.

As you mentioned, from the first known urban city settlement of “Çatalhöyük” to the historically famous Troy and from the Ionians (the Anatolian Greeks) to the greatest empires of the world – the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman – many cultures were established and flourished here.pot”.

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

As a result of this history, Turkey has 13 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including some of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Another 52 sites have been submitted to UNESCO for World Heritage Listing for further protection of the country’s archeological treasures. In 2014 alone, a total of 518 archaeological projects were underway in Turkey, including 446 excavations and cleaning works, 36 underwater excavations and 96 archaeological surface surveys.

If I was to select a handful of ruins that really showcase the influence of the various empires that have ruled Turkey, I would suggest the following:

• Hittite Capital “Hattusas”:
Hattusas, the capital of the proud and warlike Hittites from the year 2000 B.C. to the year 1180 B.C. Their empire stretched from the Black Sea to Syria. Excavations have uncovered many impressive ruins of Hittite settlements in Anatolia; fascinating artifacts dating from this period are on display in the Ankara, Anatolian Civilizations Museum.

• The Trojans:
The legendary city of beautiful Helen and the Wooden Horse, archeological excavations have revealed nine separate periods of settlement at this site, including ruins of city walls, house foundations, a temple and a theater. A symbolic wooden Trojan horse remains at the site today, commemorating the legendary war.

• Roman Empire:
Ephesus: As the capital of Roman Asia Minor, Ephesus is still richly endowed with marble temples, mosaics and a 25,000-seat Great Theater. The city, whose wealth and patronage supported its splendid architectural program, was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and her enormous temple was once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. St. Paul spoke here, even the Virgin Mary spent her last days here, and ascended to heaven from a neighboring hilltop.

• Byzantine Marvels:
Underground Cistern, which was the water source for both the Grand Palace of the Byzantine Emperors and for the Ottomans’ Topkapi Palace. St. Sophia Museum, the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Kariye Museum, the old church of St. Saviour in Chora treasuring the marvelous mosaics and frescoes which represent scenes drawn from, the cycle of the life of the Virgin and of Christ which have been restored under the guidance of the Byzantine Institute of Boston.

• Ottoman Heritage:
Topkapi Palace Museum, covering 172 acres, Topkapi Palace is a vast assemblage of garden-filled courtyards, richly decorated chambers, kiosks, pools and passageways; the Blue Mosque; the most splendid mosque in the city, built in the early 18th century, distinguished by six slender minarets and walls covered with blue Iznik tiles; the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. This is the largest mosque and was built for Suleyman the Magnificent in the 1550’s by the great architect Sinan; Dolmabahçe Palace Built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdülmecit which occupies an impressive 2,000-foot waterfront site on the Bosphorus.

Safety is always a concern for travelers flying abroad. There has been unrest in Turkey over the past couple of years. Is it safe to travel to Turkey in 2015? Are there specific areas that are not safe? What should potential visitors know and heed where threats and warnings are concerned?

The majority of travel to Turkey is focused in its west, where Istanbul straddles the bridge between Europe and Asia, and where the Mediterranean and Aegean seas provide the experiences that travelers find go synonymous with traveling through European waters. This is far from the areas that experience regional issues beyond the country’s far eastern borders.

Responsible travelers should always check the official travel advisories of their home country’s relevant government departments. The U.S. Department of State currently has no “Travel Warnings” or “Travel Alerts” issued for Turkey.

Turkey attracted nearly 37 million visitors in 2014 – an increase of more than 5% over the previous year. What is the biggest draw for tourists — what do they come to see and experience when they visit Turkey?

Turkey has made giant strides in the past decade by increasing its economy to $US820 billion, making it the 17th largest economy in the world, sixth largest-economy compared with EU countries and the sixth most-visited tourist destination in the world behind only France, the United States, China, Spain and Italy.

Our country is one of the most diverse destinations in the world, with a richness of history, archeology, unmatched natural beauty and superb gastronomy combined with art and diverse culture that spans the ages yet is at the forefront modern innovation. Few countries have as wide a variety of tourism attractions as Turkey, including – and, perhaps most importantly – its figurative and physical position as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures that embraces visitors from all corners of the globe.

Only about 2% of Turkey’s tourists are US nationals. Is the TCTO trying to market more directly to US travelers? Many Americans first experience Turkey through a cruise and wish to return. Our marketing efforts encourage Americans to spend a vacation exploring the many attractions and destinations throughout the country. Our tourism landscape is particularly appealing to:

• Families who enjoy a combination of a cultural experience, outdoor activities and miles of beautiful beaches

• Couples from young couples and honeymooners to boomers

• Archeology buffs who explore the matchless ruins throughout the country, ancient palaces and mosques, and matchless museums

• Sportsmen who enjoy the golf, ski areas, yachting, hiking, mountain biking, ballooning.

We have allocated tourism funds and endeavors to create compelling and successful marketing, advertising and PR campaigns in North America. We are also working very closely with our tourism partners, travel agents and tour operators to sell Turkey. We hope this will continue to help increase the number of North American visitors to Turkey in the near future.

When Americans think of travel to Turkey, Istanbul is the place that immediately comes to mind. We educate North American travelers about the exciting diversity of landscapes, attractions and experiences throughout Turkey and encourage them to extend their visits and explore the other fascinating regions, such as: Central Anatolia – Cappadocia, Ankara; Aegean region – Izmir, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Cesme, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions of Turkey.

For first-timers traveling to Turkey, what’s your recommended site-seeing and shopping itinerary?

turkey

Photo: Turkish Tourism and Culture Office

Turkey’s multi-faceted tourism assets appeal to many U.S. travelers, who are particularly interested in Turkey’s history and archaeology, culture, gastronomy and the arts. They also enjoy family travel, resorts and beaches, romance and honeymoons, health/wellness, spas, natural wonders, sports (golf, skiing, yachting, ballooning) and religious travel.

• Istanbul is a fascinating blend of old and new, with some of the most famous ancient palaces and mosques, traditional bazaars and hamams and incredible art and history museums combined with gourmet restaurants and lively nightlife, cruises on the Bosphorus, luxurious hotels, world class spas and trendy boutiques.

• Cappadocia – spectacular natural wonders, cave hotels, underground cities and ancient cliff churches, hot air ballooning; superb cuisine and wineries.

• Ruins near Izmir/Kusadasi including Ephesus, Pergamon, Aphrodisias, Miletus, Didyma, Priene

• Bodrum: To American travelers, the “resort peninsula” that is the Bodrum region might be the best-kept secret in the world. Along with its “sister resort region” of Antalya, Bodrum is one of the most popular “sun and fun” destinations for Turks and foreigners alike, offering luxurious accommodations in a setting that both respects the area’s fishing village past and revels in its jetsetting present. It’s no wonder why Bodrum has been a vacation spot for A-List celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Beyonce Knowles, Sting, Elizabeth Hurley and Nicole Kidman.

turkish cuisine

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

• Vibrant cuisine, wines, and nightlife: A fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, Turkish cuisine is considered among the best in the world featuring Turkish tea, Turkish coffee and the famous Turkish delight found all over the country.

• Shopping: Authentic carpets, rugs, and kilims are tourists’ favorite items for shopping in Turkey, with more artistic features and creativity in Turkish Carpets than any other carpets in the world. Turkey’s capital, Ankara, is home to one of the largest bazaars in the world and Istanbul is known for its Grand Bazaar. More than just carpets, however, Turkey’s bazaars have jewelry, leather goods, pottery, spices and tea. Visitors also enjoy the fashionable boutiques with designer clothing and decorative housewares.

• Sophisticated resorts, miles of beaches and quaint villages along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts

• Turkey also offers unique experiences such as Turkish Bath and the Whirling Dervishes: Turkey is among the top seven countries in the world and ranks 2nd in Europe with its 1,300 thermal springs. The Turkish bath, or hamam, is the quintessential Turkish experience and is an absolute must to relax. A Turkish Spa is a favorite among tourists as it combines traditional hamam experience with Far Eastern touches like aromatic scents and traditional Turkish massages. The Whirling Dervishes is one of the world’s most intriguing sights, a mesmerizing spectacle of twirling delight.

Where can folks find the best deals and is there a trick to haggling with vendors?

turkey bazaar

Photo: Turkish Tourism and Culture Office

Haggling with vendors is one of the best parts of shopping in Turkey. Some of the top tips to help travelers haggle with respect and get the best deal include:

• First, determine if haggling is appropriate: Are you in a luxury department store or in an outdoor market or bazaar?

• What is it worth to you? An item is only worth what you would pay for it. Discounts don’t mean anything if it’s still more than you want to pay for it.

• Figure out the lowest price: That last amount yelled out as you leave and turn the corner is often the best price you’ll get.

• Obey the rules and don’t hurry: There is no rush to haggling. Bid carefully, if the price is too much, leave and don’t worry about having wasted a merchant’s time. That’s their job and they’re very good at it.

Where do Turkish families vacation in Turkey and what’s your favorite destination?

Turkish families visit Antalya , Bodrum, Izmir and environs. My favorite family vacation place in Turkey is Marmaris.

  • Antalya: Antalya, the Turkish Riviera is the most stunning part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Beautiful beaches, historic ruins and charming old towns make Antalya one of Turkey’s most popular provinces. The region around Antalya offers sights of amazing natural beauty as well as impressive historical remains such as Perge, originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 B.C., the place with the impressive colonnaded street where most of the statues that are on display in the Anatolia Museum were unearthed.; Aspendos that bears one of the best preserved amphitheaters in the world; Demre: Also known as Kale, the ancient city of Myra, is mostly famous for its connection with St. Nicholas, who was bishop here in the 4th century.
  • Izmir: No trip to Turkey is complete without including a visit to Izmir – the perfect hub to enjoy the full range of attractions that lure visitors to Turkey – a cosmopolitan and accessible city, the most spectacular archeological wonders in Turkey, fantastic seaside restaurants, dynamic nightlife, beautiful beaches and a warm Turkish welcome.

Is there anything that you’d like to tell our readers that we haven’t covered in this Q&A?

Traveling to Turkey from the U.S. is easy, Turkish Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer direct flights from the major cities of the U.S.

• Turkish Airlines, “Best Airline in Europe,” currently flies non-stop direct flights from New York, Washington D.C., Los Angles, Chicago, Houston, Boston, Toronto and it will launch a new route from San Francisco to Istanbul beginning April 13, 2015.

• Delta Air Lines will increase the number of seats it offers on the Istanbul and New York, JFK flight for the 2015 summer season.