Travel Technology

A Hotel That Offers All Guests A Portable Wi-Fi Device

The Mira Hotel Wi-Fi Buddy

Hello from Hong Kong, where I’m currently staying at The Mira Hotel, a member of Design Hotels (one of the latest Starwood partners, though this particular hotel isn’t part of the marketing partnership yet).

I checked in this afternoon and can immediately say that this is one of the best city hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Design Hotels is comprised of “a handpicked portfolio of one-of-a-kind hotels” and the combination of design and functionality at The Mira is key.

Every detail has been considered and meticulously implemented to make the stay as seamless as possible. Along with this attention to detail came what could very well be the best hotel amenity ever. Here in Hong Kong many hotels seem to provide free Android phones for their guests under the name Handy. These provide unlimited data and free local calls, which is a brilliant amenity. As someone who has never used an Android, I found it a little hard to use and would have preferred to use my iPhone. It definitely came in “Handy” when I needed to navigate and make some calls, though. šŸ˜‰

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ANA Is Offering Free Wifi On Select Flights… With Restrictions

ANA-First-Class

I’m someone who really values inflight wifi, though even among airlines that offer it, there’s huge variance in terms of pricing and quality.

Generally my preference is when airlines offer a wifi plan without data caps that you have to pay for. Why?

— When airlines offer free wifi (like Emirates), it tends to be outrageously slow
— When airlines charge based on data usage, it tends to be outrageously expensive, to the point that it’s not worth using (like the case of someone who had a ~$1,200 wifi bill on Singapore Airlines)

So I like something in the middle, like when airlines charge ~$20 for unlimited data over 24 hours. Airlines with such plans include American, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, United, and many more.

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Air France & KLM Will Finally Offer Inflight Wifi

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As I’ve explained before, inflight wifi is one of the amenities I value most on planes. Being able to stay connected with the world while flying around the world is pretty awesome, and I find that I always land more relaxed if I’ve been able to catch up on work and email on my flight, rather than landing to a big list of things to do.

Earlier in the year I flew Air France’s new business class from Paris to Toronto, and had a great flight. Air France is really investing in their premium product, with great new reverse herringbone seats in business class. As I concluded in my review:

“I just wish Air France had wifi on their planes. If they offered wifi on the planes with their new business class, it might just be my favorite transatlantic business class product.”

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T-Mobile Offering Free 4G LTE In Europe & South America For The Rest Of 2016!

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I made the switch from AT&T to T-Mobile back in June, and couldnā€™t be happier about it. I pay less than half as much as I did before, and I get unlimited international data, can finally tether my phone (I had one of those grandfathered unlimited plans with AT&T that didnā€™t allow it), and get an hour of free Gogo wifi on every eligible flight.

On top of these published perks, T-Mobile often has limited time promotions to delight customers. In the decade I was with AT&T, I don’t remember them ever doing a single thing to go above and beyond. For example, over the summer T-Mobile offered unlimited high speed 4G LTE data in Europe for their Simple Choice plan customers, rather than the standard 2G speeds.

Well, T-Mobile has just announced an “Endless Summer” promotion, as T-Mobile Simple Choice plan customers will get free 4G LTE speeds in Europe and South America for the rest of 2016. T-Mobile customers will automatically receive 4G LTE speeds in the following countries:

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Is This The Best Option For International Data?

Skyroam

There’s no doubt that staying connected while traveling abroad has gotten exponentially easier in the last few years. While options for local SIM cards and rentable My-Fi devices have expanded, U.S.-based cellular carriers have started offering competitive packages that allow you to use your phone as you would in the States, affordably.

Ben’s a fan of T-Mobile. Tiffany prefers her Google-Fi.

As for me, I’m a Sprint customer, and have been pretty delighted with Sprint’s international travel packages this past year. With Sprint’s Open World plan (which is free), voice and texting in the entirety of the Americas – North and South – is free, and 1GB of high-speed data is included (with overages charged at $30 per GB, billed in KB increments). In most of Europe, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia, calls are just $0.20 per minute, texts are free, and high-speed data is billed at $30 per gig, in KB increments.

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Blacklane: An Alternative To Uber & Pricey Hotel Cars

blacklane

We’re on record here at OMAAT as preferring to avoid taxis, as our rides nearly always end up being highly entertaining, and not particularly efficient. When public transportation isn’t reasonably available, our defaults are Uber, Lyft, and even hotel cars — probably like many of you.

Hotel cars can be expensive, and of course Uber and Lyft have their problems as well. There are some alternative companies, however, including Blacklane, which specializes in airport transfers (though they provide other car services as well). Blacklane promotes itself as a “global professional driver service,” not a ridesharing provider or transportation app. They utilize licensed and regulated drivers throughout their network of 200+ cities.

I used Blacklane for the first time this week, and I think it’s a service that will be useful to many of you, so figured I’d share my experience and the details.

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The Puzzling Reason Korean Air Doesn’t Offer Inflight Wifi

Inflight-wifi

Everyone values inflight amenities differently, though personally I consider wifi to be one of the most important amenities an airline can have. Admittedly I travel nonstop and rely on being “connected” in order to my job, so I may be a bit biased. However, I don’t think I’m in the minority anymore, as travelers increasingly want to stay connected when traveling.

We’re seeing more and more airlines introduce wifi, though there are several different strategies airlines are employing:

— Emirates offers 10MB of free wifi, and then for just $1 you can purchase 500MB of additional data; wifi is basically free, though as a result it’s almost unusably slow
— Airlines like Etihad and Lufthansa charge a reasonable cost (~$20) for wifi but have no data caps, and strike the perfect balance between speed and price
— Other airlines (like Singapore Airlines on the A380) charge based on usage, and it’s outrageously expensive

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The Best App & Website For Tracking Flight Status

FlightStats-App-7

As I’ve explained many times before, while I work primarily online, I’m pretty bad when it comes to technology. You’d probably be surprised to see how few apps I have on my phone.

A while back I wrote about Flightradar24, which is a fun app for tracking planes nearby. I use the app more for amusement than anything else, as you can see exactly where every plane is. So when I see a plane overhead I’ll open the app and see what kind of a plane it is, where it’s going, etc.

However, by far the most useful app (and website) for tracking the status of flights is FlightStats. It’s an app I use every time I fly, though it just occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever written about it.

Why is FlightStats more useful than using an airline’s website directly?

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What’s The Best International Travel Adapter?

Best-Travel-Adapter

Reader Dylan emailed to ask me what travel adapter I use, and I figured it was worth a separate post, since I really do like the one I have. I mentioned it in my post last year about the nine travel gadgets I always have in my carry-on, as a good adapter really makes international travel a lot easier.

Believe it or not, back in the day I’d entirely rely on hotels and airport lounges to lend me adapters, which was ridiculous. Travel adapters are cheap, and they’re not all created equal.

On the most basic level you’ll want a universal adapter, so that you have a single adapter that can be used everywhere. That’s much better than an adapter that only converts for certain types of plugs.

But there’s more that makes a great travel adapter. I use the Travel Inspira universal power plug. What makes it awesome? First of all, it’s compact, which is of course important. But what makes it really awesome is that in addition to the standard outlet it also has two USB outlets. This means I can charge my laptop, iPhone, and iPad all at once.

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Hello, Live From The Fastest Inflight Wifi I’ve Ever Experienced!

Inflight-wifi

Some people are surprised to learn that I’m actually extremely technologically illiterate, despite the fact that I work online. I rely on fast wifi while traveling in order to work, though I couldn’t tell you the difference between types of wifi offered on various airlines, etc. I do know the difference between broadband and dial-up, though. That counts for something, right?

Anyway, inflight wifi has transformed my life, in the sense that it allows me to stay productive while traveling. I review airlines and write online for a living, so an airplane with wifi feels like my office more than anywhere else.

Now, wifi quality and pricing varies greatly across airlines. Some airlines, like Emirates, give you virtually unlimited wifi for $1, though it’s almost unusably slow. Then there are airlines like Etihad and Lufthansa, which have reasonably fast wifi, and let you buy wifi for a fixed cost with no data caps, which I love. On the other end of the spectrum you have airlines like Singapore, which quite literally charge you a fortune to use their wifi.

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T-Mobile ONE Plus Offers Faster International Data

T-Mobile-One

I made the switch from AT&T to T-Mobile back in June, and couldn’t be happier about it. I pay less than half as much as I did before, and I get unlimited international data, can finally tether my phone (I had one of those grandfathered unlimited plans with AT&T that didn’t allow it), and get an hour of free Gogo wifi on every eligible flight.

I’m perfectly happy with my current plan, though yesterday T-Mobile announced a new plan that might be of interest to international travelers.

They’re introducing T-Mobile ONE, which provides unlimited data for as little as $40 per line. This doesn’t actually change T-Mobile’s current international plan, as they’ll continue to offer 128kbps, up to 2G speeds, with this plan.

However, they’re also introducing T-Mobile ONE Plus, which costs an extra $25 per line per month. This comes with added perks like unlimited 4G LTE tethering in the US and international data at twice the speeds. That means you can get 256kbps internationally, up to 3G speeds. Per T-Mobile’s press release:

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Should You Switch To T-Mobile?

T-Mobile-International-Data

Reader Shawn asked me the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

“Thinking of changing over to t-mobile soon. How have they been for you? Any regrets?”

Simply put, switching to T-Mobile has been life changing for me. I shared my experience switching from AT&T to T-Mobile, and also my first experience using T-Mobile’s Simple Choice International Plan.

For those of you not aware, T-Mobile offers unlimited data in over 140 countries around the world, and you can even make phone calls for 20 cents per minute while abroad (though you can also use Skype or Google Voice to make calls for free).

I’ve been with T-Mobile for over two months now, and have traveled internationally a lot during this time. I’m just as much of a fan of them today as I was the first day I switched. I’m paying half as much as I was with AT&T, and am getting so much more.

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Aloft Introduces Voice Activated Hotel Rooms

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While I like luxury hotels in general, I’m a huge fan of the Aloft concept. It’s unpretentious, consistent, and fun, all without trying too hard (unlike Tru by Hilton, which seems to be an annoying copy cat of this).

Even though they’re more of a budget brand, they’ve really embraced technology, from features like emoji room service to robot butlers.

Well, Aloft has just announced their latest technological innovation — voice activated hotel rooms. The voice activated hotel rooms each feature an iPad running an Aloft app that’s used for controlling in-room features. This new feature is initially available at the Aloft Boston Seaport and Aloft Santa Clara, though should be extended to more properties soon.

Here’s how the features of the iPad are described, per the press release:

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Where To Credit Airline Miles

Clouds-Sunset

One of the challenges in collecting miles is knowing where to credit the miles earned on a given flight. The combination of alliances and fare codes can make it tricky, especially for those new to miles. The Ask Lucky forum has a question nearly everyday about how many miles will be earned for a certain flight, or what the best deal is, etc., so it’s something a lot of people can struggle with.

I have a strategy and a timesaver tool, which I figured I’d share for those who might be in a similar situation.

My strategy is to think about your future travel desires, and how the miles you might earn for a flight can support those plans. Just because you can credit miles to say, Thai Royal Orchid Plus, doesn’t mean you should. There is possibly (and really probably), a better alternative with a partner carrier.

There’s a lot of nuance to this. Everyone’s goals vary, of course, but it also depends on how you’re able to earn miles. If you aren’t familiar with the “goalposts” for various awards, or which programs might make the most sense for your travel goals, be sure to check out our post on how many miles are needed for an award ticket.

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