If you needed an excuse to take a vacation, here’s a good one: it could help you to live longer.
Forget all that stuff about it being stressful having the family around you 24/7, Australian research has concluded that travelling makes people happier and improves their health, even long after the holiday is over.
Dr Sebastian Filep, an expert in travel and wellbeing at Victoria University, found that motivations for travel, experiences at the destination and the post-holiday reflection all contributed to the pleasure of a vacation abroad.
“I see an opportunity for a greater connection between tourism and health, where holidays become a more important factor in leading a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr Filep. “We know from studies in the US that experiencing positive emotions reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and that optimists live longer than pessimists. So happiness is good for overall physical and mental health, and holidays are a good vehicle for experiencing happiness.”
Dr Filep’s study, conducted as part of a doctoral thesis, forms the basis of a chapter in a forthcoming book, Tourists, Tourism and the Good Life.
by Andy Moreton
If you arrive at a luxury hotel and find you have forgotten your phone charger, call housekeeping and see if they have one. Why? Because it’s the most common item left behind in hotel rooms, according to Matthew Humphreys, assistant manager at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco. He has worked at nine Hyatt hotels and in each the housekeeping staff had a large box of countless chargers left unclaimed.
In fact lost property is a huge and costly business for many hotels with on average 20 items per day being left behind by guests at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago alone. A Hyatt spokesperson reported that passports, credit cards, wedding rings, jewelry, computers, MP3 players and cash are frequently left behind, along with those cell phone chargers. More unusual discarded items are false teeth, hearing aids, adult toys and electric toothbrushes, making lost property departments veritable treasure troves.
According to psychologist Robert Bjork, travel disrupts our normal routine where habit normally protects us from forgetting things when we leave home.
Generally items left in hotels are kept for three months then sold to a salvage company, donated to charity or given to the people who handed them in – namely staff.
The problems of reuniting items with their owners can be costly and complicated. Owners cannot always be traced as electronic goods are security protected. Many hotels do not contact guests as a policy of respecting guests’ privacy. They do not return items unless the owner has requested it to avoid sticky situations such as a spouse learning that their partner was somewhere they were not meant to be. Considering some of the intimate items left behind, the policy does make sense!
Ultratravel has come up with a new method of payment. It is specifically designed for international business travelers and vacationers who are tired of being ripped off by poor currency exchange rates, excessive transaction charges and the weakening dollar value on the world currency markets. The Ultratravel Currency Card is aimed at meeting the needs of the luxury traveler; it is free to apply for and has no annual fee.
The currency card is run in conjunction with VISA and initially offers three currencies: US dollars, Euros and UK sterling. The cards can be preloaded (and reloaded) as required, either online, by phone or by SMS. The big advantage of Ultratravel cards is that exchange rates are said to be considerably more generous than those offered at airports or high street Bureau de Change offices. Those watching the US dollar buy less and less abroad can secure a rate by uploading funds now which can be spent at a later date.
Unlike some prepayment cards, the Ultratravel Card has no transaction charges when used at the millions of shops, restaurants and hotels worldwide displaying the VISA symbol. For cash withdrawals at ATMs, the fee is fixed at a low £1.50 ($2.40).
Think tangentially and get a secondary card for children planning a student travel trip or requiring funds while on a gap year.
An interesting new formula has been created by a travel advisory company, called TripIndex. Basically it is the travelers’ equivalent of the standard shopping basket where the price of identical goods is compared from different sources. TripIndex adds together the cost of one night in a four star luxury hotel, a large cheese pizza from a global pizza chain, a dry martini in the bar of a top-ranking hotel and a five mile taxi ride in various international cities. It looks something like this:
4*Night + Pizza + Martini + Taxi = ?
They ranged widely across the globe from Bangkok at $85.71 to Paris at $362.28.
There is no surprise in the fact that there is a wide difference between costs in an Asian city and the pinnacle of European class, Paris. However, the index was applied to cities in the U.S. which also showed almost as wide a difference. Las Vegas produced all four items for $121.30 while the same four items in New York City cost $324.38 – over $200 more!
Those looking for a good value location to host their next business conference or family reunion should look at Dallas ($173.37), New Orleans ($177.23), Atlanta ($177.34), Minneapolis ($189.69) or Orlando ($200.89).
The most expensive U.S. cities for a weekend away, besides New York, would be Boston ($301.32), Washington D.C. ($291.12), Chicago ($257.82), San Francisco ($254.69) or Honolulu ($238.78).
It certainly pays to do your homework, although hotel booking companies that specialize in luxury hotels, such as Luxique.com will always offer the best deals wherever in the world you choose to visit.
TripAdvisor has just announced the results of its annual summer travel survey and it augers well for luxury hotels in the USA. More travelers are planning summer leisure trips this year than in 2010, up from 83% to 86%. Rising gas prices however are a concern and 12% of the 2,000 respondents say they will make shorter driving trips (less than 200 miles) and 18% said they will take fewer road trips. 76% of those surveyed expect gas prices to hit at least $4.50 per gallon for regular fuel this summer and 13% gloomily expect to see prices above $5.
Of those traveling, 66% intend to book into a hotel rather than staying with family and friends or using vacation rentals. While more people intend to travel over the Memorial Weekend, fewer will travel by car and the more intend to fly. And where are travelers heading this summer? Half of vacationers will opt for a city destination and 40% are heading for the ocean with the reaminder visiting national parks and lakes. The top 10 US destinations, all with a good selection of luxury hotels, are:
• New York City
• Honolulu, Hawaii
• San Francisco
• Las Vegas
• Lahaina, Hawaii
• Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
• New Orleans
• San Diego
Karen Drake, spokesperson for TripAdvisor, summed up the survey by saying “U.S. travelers are undeterred by outside influences when it comes to summer travel. While rising gas prices will continue to keep Americans mindful of mileage, the vast majority intend to hit the road for leisure trips this summer.”
However, in the UK where gas prices are heavily taxed at 67%, 19% of those surveyed said that they are less likely to holiday in Britain this year because driving is simply “too expensive”. More than a third of British travelers admit the cost of gas at the pump means they are more likely to holiday abroad.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
Even the best luxury hotels worldwide do not always make teeth cleaning easy if the bathroom water is less than pure. A new idea from Archtek has the perfect solution – chewable toothpaste tablets. I can think of three great advantages over regular toothpaste straight away for travelers.
First of all, you can pack it in your hand luggage without having to put it in your clear Ziploc and declare it as a liquid. Secondly, it is accessible after your flight meal to freshen your mouth before and/or after sleeping. Thirdly it can be used without water, so you don’t have to open a bottle of expensive spring water just to brush your teeth in areas where the water is not up to drinking standards.
The instructions seem simple enough – just pop it in your mouth and brush as usual. Hard to imagine, but I presume all will become apparent when you try it for real. Available for just $3.25 for 60 it’s a gadget that won’t break the bank either.
This clever idea (aren’t the best often the most obvious?) caught the eye and imagination of the Travel Goods Association who were promoting it, along with 90 other new travel products, at the recent Travel Goods Exhibition in Chicago. In case you were wondering, the winner of their “Buzz Award” for best offering in the show was a “Blankid Buddy”, an animal shaped accessory that can be used as a backpack, cuddly toy, pillow or blanket. Sorry, that’s one strictly for the kids!
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
Travellers wanting to book inter-continental rail journeys across Europe currently face a nightmare of red tape when booking each stage, country by country. The exceptions currently are Eurostar and Thalys high-speed rail services but their services are limited to certain central European cities.
The European Union has now paved the way making it as easy to book rail journeys between countries as it is to book flights, with a combination of stops and destinations to suit the needs of both business people and tourists. The EU is adopting new regulations to force the standardization of rail passenger data on fares and timetables right across Europe.
In 2012, by law, rail operators must bring their computer systems and practises inline, making it easy for travel agents and individuals to book tickets to and from most destinations, hassle free.
One of the main reasons behind this approach from Brussels is that inter-city travel by rail is far more environmentally-friendly than travel by car or by air. Rail travel considerably reduces harmful emissions and the effects on global warming, possibly making it the recommended method of travel for forward-thinking governments of the future.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
Back in the good old days of travel, your passport was an interesting and personal account of your international travels. Each country stamped you in and out with their own quirky stamp and colored ink and you could happily reminisce on some happy vacations just by idly flicking through the pages.
With the introduction of the Schengen Agreement it opened up Europe’s borders to become more like state lines with no immigration controls or “Douane”. It certainly simplifies travel for tourists but it does take away that spirit of boastful adventure.
With the European Union’s open borders, EU residents can travel around Europe every day of the year and still have a passport filled with bare and empty pages. Where’s the fun in that? Even Americans on multi-country tours will normally only have their passport stamped twice; once on arrival and again on departure.
However, those wishing to have a souvenir stamp in their passport should make a point of visiting luxury hotels in countries which still do take pride in paying an official to put an official stamp in your passport. For Americans, fly into the UK (stamp) then fly into one of the countries in the Schengen zone (stamp). Take the bus, train or car across the borders of the former Yugoslavia now divided into Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and on into Albania and it will yield a further fine collection of passport stamps in all types of indecipherable alphabets.
Other Eastern European countries such as Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia will add to the rubber inked pages and if you visit the Republic of San Marino, an enclave of Italy, you can even have the pleasure of paying €5 for a stamp.
So if your passport is looking a little boring, consider taking up stamp collecting – the rubber stamp kind - and liven up your passport, and your cultural experiences!
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
A flight attendant has been arrested by police investigating the theft of cash and jewellery from Air France long-haul business class passengers (see Valuables Take Flight post January 12th).
The police said they’d identified the suspect, a 47-year-old woman referred to only as Lucie R, after cross-checking crew manifests for 142 Air France flights on which passengers had reported thefts this year.
It’s reported that she’s confessed to 26 separate offences. She’s said to have had jewellery, a Cartier wedding ring and another diamond-encrusted ring in a safe deposit box at a bank at Rouen in northern France. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques were reportedly found at her home.
The woman is in custody awaiting trial and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.
Theft by one of its own staff was clearly far from the thoughts of the Air France spokeswoman when she made this quote in January: “Cabin crew are not mandated to query passengers [my italics] on which bags they are opening or if they are the rightful owners.”
Air France continues to maintain that it is responsible only for belongings checked in and stored in the hold. Anything stolen on board was a travel insurance matter.
by Andy Moreton
The luxury hotel sector in the United States seems to have bounced back strongly from the recession.
America’s luxury hotels sold almost 17 per cent more rooms during the January–March period than a year ago, according to data from industry tracker Smith Travel Research. In contrast, the average hotel in the US sold 5 per cent more rooms during that time.
One key factor is that business travellers appear to be returning to the road. Corporations cancelled lavish gatherings after the financial collapse and government bailout of some companies. CEOs feared a backlash if they sent people to, or met at, luxury hotels or resorts.
While corporate get-togethers are back, the excesses of the past two or three years are less prevalent. “The open bar is a little less open,” said Simon Cooper, Ritz-Carlton’s top executive. “The [former offers of] ‘have a couple of spa treatments’ and the big fruit basket in the room every day are probably something of the past,” he said.
In the depths of the business travel slump, luxury hotels promoted themselves to high-end leisure travellers, many of whom still had money and didn’t have the same hang-ups as corporations about spending. Room rates were aggressively discounted and many package deals were on offer. Even now, discounts are still widely available at most luxury hotels.
by Andy Moreton