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“Did you know…Rising hotel, car rental and airline taxes are pricing families out of travel?”

delta airlinesAccording to a new report by National Center for Policy Analysis Research Associate, Jacob Kohlhepp, the triple threat of travel-based taxes on hotel, car rental and airline tickets can increase costs up to 30 percent for family travelers.

“In a drive toward more revenue, officials at every level of government have raised a trifecta of travel-based taxes dramatically,” says Kohlhepp. “While travel taxes are a politically popular revenue tool, they discourage travel and tourism – particularly for low-income individuals and families.”

The tax rates on hotels, car rentals, and airline tickets vary by state. According to the report:

  • Twenty-two states charge a hotel occupancy tax, which can range from 3 to 13 percent of a night’s stay;
  • Taxes on car rentals can raise rental prices by nearly 25 percent;
  • There are seventeen different taxes and fees levied on air travel, which can increase base airfare by 30 percent.

“There is no doubt that air travel is more affordable for families than it was back in the day when were prices were set by the government,” says Senior Fellow Pam Villarreal. “But other aspects of travel are prohibitive, particularly in large cities.”

Travel Taxes: The Hidden Trifectahttp://www.ncpa.org/pub/travel-taxes-the-hidden-trifecta

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.

 

ExpertFlyer Survey of 1,100 Subscribers Uncovers Surprising Data about Family Travel Behaviors

As families embark on their annual summer vacations, a new travel survey conducted by ExpertFlyer.com uncovered surprising data about consumer trends and behaviors among families traveling together.

ExpertFlyer conducted the survey with more than 1,100* consumer travelers who currently subscribe to its free Seat Alerts app as a method to identify behaviors and discover what affects family travelers most.  The results are illustrated in an infographic below.

(Click graphic to enlarge)

Infographic: Family Travel Survey

“Our family travel survey uncovered some interesting statistics and trends across a wide range of travel-related activities including air travel, living accommodations and purchasing habits,” explains Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com.  “The goal of this survey was to gain a better understanding of consumer trends to better service customers moving forward and hopefully provide the travel industry, in general, with some insight about how to service families planning their vacation.”

*A total of 1,140 ExpertFlyer Seat Alert app subscribers were surveyed.

 

 

“Did you know…The best & worst places for July 4th celebrations?”

WalletHub recently compared the 100 largest U.S. cities based on how well they balance holiday cost and fun. Based on a number of criteria, including duration of fireworks shows, average gas prices, the number of festivals and performances, weather forecasts and more, the overall winning city is Minneapolis, MN — this year’s loser: North Las Vegas, NV.

Source: WalletHub

Italy: One Country — A World of Cultures

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In the final installment of our cultural travel series, we’ve saved the best for last with an appraisal of Italy’s significant art and cultural attractions.  Kit Burns, owner of Doorways, Ltd. and Italy travel expert, talks about the wonders we’ve all dreamed of seeing, as well as those you may have never heard of.  Having visited Italy more than 100 times, Kit’s vast experience and perspective is comprehensive and hard to match.

Watch our video interview with Kit.

What is it about Italy that makes it one of the most culturally significant travel destinations in the world?

For starters, it has 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which makes it the most culturally rich country in the world. UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Click here to view the Heritage Site list for Italy followed by the date that the site was named to the UNESCO list. Basically no matter what area of Italy you travel to, you will inevitably be close to fabulous cultural treasures.

Your business has taken you to Italy more than 100 times. What are some of the most treasured regions and attractions from your standpoint and why?

Every area of Italy is full of wonders, its own cuisine, its own dialect and its own natural beauty. Just when I think I have seen it all, I make another discovery. Everyone has heard of Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast (and Capri), Lake Como and Tuscany. But there are many other wonders to discover like Umbria, the Veneto, Lake Maggiore, Umbria, Puglia or Sicily.

Where do you recommend first-timers to Italy visit for authentic cultural richness?

First timers with two weeks would probably want to see Rome and north and south of Rome because there is so much in each area. A classic first trip to Italy could be to fly into Venice to spend three nights; rent a car and travel to Tuscany for a week in a villa to explore Florence, Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Cortona and the beautiful wine country, and then drive down to Rome, drop off your car and spend the balance of your trip there. Second timers might elect to fly into Rome and travel south to the Amalfi Coast for a week and then finish off with a week in Rome.

Are there any events, festivals, etc., happening this year that travelers may want to plan a trip around?

Expo15, the World’s Fair, is taking place outside of Milan this year.  The befitting theme is, “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life.” The fair started on May 1 and runs through October 31, 2015.

For more information about Kit Burns and vacation villa rentals in Italy, Spain and France, click here.