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The Best Outdoor Adventures in California

Although states like Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Montana and Florida are hailed for their wide array of outdoor adventures, the massive state of California also has plenty to offer nature lovers.   From pristine mountain lakes and flourishing redwood forests to sunny beaches and sandy desert dunes, these are the best spots for outdoor exploration in More »

Tag Archives: business travel

More hotels opening in airports

 

Sheraton Hotels Resorts

In March, Sheraton Hotels Resorts opened the Sheraton Malpensa, which is attached to Terminal One of the Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy. The Sheraton has plans to build another four hotels adjacent to airports by the end of 2012.

The days of snoozing upright in an airport terminal chair during that long layover may soon be over. At some of the world’s busiest airports, travelers can book a hotel room to catch a nap or take a warm shower — all just minutes from the runway.

“We sell our cabins literally by the hour. You book only what you need,” said Jo Berrington, marketing manager for Yotel, a no-frills hotel chain now in London’s Heathrow airport, London’s Gatwick airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Yotel’s rooms are a mere 75 square feet, with just enough room for a bed, desk and shower.

Travelers can check in and out of the capsule-like rooms at any time of the day. A four-hour block of time costs about $45, and an overnight stay costs about $90. The U.K.-based Yotel expects to have five more in-airport hotels in the works within the next year, including a proposal for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Airport lodging has been around for years, offering a bed to travelers with late-night arrivals or early departures — or stranded due to bad weather. There’s the Hyatt Regency inside the Orlando airport, the Marriott in the Tampa airport and The Sheraton in the Bradley airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.

But things are starting to change, as airports continue to evolve into centers of commerce with bars, restaurants and shopping, said Scott Berman, the U.S. leader of hospitality and leisure at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “There has been a rapid expansion of hotel development in and around the busiest airports,” said Berman.

It’s not limited to no-frills. New luxury hotels are popping up at airports, complete with spa services, cigar bars and exercise rooms.

Last year, Hilton Hotels Resorts opened a 320-room hotel inside Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital Airport in China. The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, two ballrooms, 21 meeting rooms and spa services, a cigar bar and fitness center.

The Hilton chain expects to open hotels at JFK airport in New York and the Frankfurt airport in Germany in December and three more hotels inside airports in Nigeria, in Ghana and in Alberta, Canada, by 2014.

Last spring, Sheraton Hotels Resorts opened a hotel inside the Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy and by the end of next year, Sheraton will add more hotels adjacent to airports internationally in Azerbaijan and Moscow and domestically in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Meeting and conference rooms will be included. “You will have business travelers fly in, do business and never venture into the city,” said Hoyt Harper, Sheraton’s global brand leader. “Convenience is very important.” 

More on Overhead Bin

Jennifer Alsever is an msnbc.com contributor.

Holidays are just getting better

Gatwick airport

Over the years I’ve definitely become better at going on holiday. Through trial and error, tips from friends and experience I’ve learned a few things that have meant each holiday I go on is slightly better than the last. On my first holiday I don’t think I even took sun cream and now I pack travel toilet paper and insect repellent. Needless to say I’ve learnt a lot and I’m a pretty good holidaymaker now. However, by no means have I reached the end of my holiday learning.

I recently discovered the joys of booking into an airport hotel before my flight. I check-in the night before I’m due to depart and get to enjoy all the fun of a cosy hotel and an extra day of holiday rather than sitting around stressing about holiday details. My first experience like this was at one of the Stansted airport hotels and then I tried one of the hotels near Heathrow. Both were great, really top notch hotels with amazing facilities and excellent food. I could have stayed a lot longer that’s for sure. A friend of mine spends a lot of time in the Dublin airport hotels and assures me they’re second to none, so it seems that wherever you’re flying from airport hotels are fantastic.

Airplane

Image Thos Gee via Picasa

It’s a great way to start your holiday because it removes the stress and hassle that you’d normally go through on departure day and instead you just relax and unwind in the comfort of a lovely hotel. It’s like getting a head start on your holiday. Next up I’ve booked a Gatwick hotel and parking and I think the parking probably counts as the next lesson in better holidays. I got the same deal I’d usually get but at a much better price when I booked with the hotel, in my mind that’s pretty good news.

I genuinely think that booking into an airport hotel is one of the best improvements I’ve made to my holidays. Granted, sun cream has to top the list but airport hotels aren’t far behind. I get great pleasure from making the most of the hotel facilities for an evening and settling in for a bit of wining and dining while I think of the stress and panic I used to endure. I now start each and every trip with a smile on my face and a belly full of breakfast rather than rushed off my feet, irritable and grumpy. I’ll never book a holiday without an airport hotel again.

This has been a sponsored guest post from HolidayExtras 

 

6 hotel trends from disappearing tubs to new fees

Pump bottle on the shower wall or individual shampoos and lotions you can take home? Luxurious tub for a self-indulgent bath or no tub at all? A friendly greeting from a well-informed local or a code transmitted electronically that will open your hotel room door with no human interaction at check-in whatsoever?

Here are some details on six hotel trends bubbling up in the industry right now, and how they affect your stay.

Increasing fees: Your hotel bill may include some unpleasant surprises. Not just the usual $20-a-day resort and amenity fee, which you pay whether or not you use the tennis courts and pool complex, but how about a required $12 housekeeping surcharge or a fee for storing your luggage in the lobby?

Total fees and surcharges collected by U.S. hotels are increasing from $1.7 billion in 2010 to a record $1.8 billion in 2011, according to new research from Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Sports Management. Hanson recommends that consumers ask when getting a rate for a hotel what if any requisite fees will be added to the bill. If you’re booking online, you may have to hunt around the listing to see what might be added to the quoted rate in addition to taxes.

Lobbies as social hubs: Colorful seating, free Internet service and trendy cocktail and coffee bars are helping to turn once-sterile hotel lobbies into social hubs. Hanson says while baby boomers might see the lobby as a place to meet at 6 p.m. sharp before heading to a prearranged restaurant location, younger travelers may prefer to gather more informally in the lobby, hang out for a while, socialize and take their time choosing where they’ll spend the evening. They might check email, go online using a cell phone or iPad to look for dining recommendations, or try whatever snacks or drinks are readily available from the lobby market or bar.

Hilton’s new Home2 Suites extended stay brand designed their lobbies with an eye toward bringing business travelers out of their rooms. Tables and colorful couches offer space for informal meetings as well as areas where anyone can plop down with a laptop and a drink rather than sitting alone in a room watching TV.

Disappearing tubs: Unless you’re booking a suite, your next stay in a hotel room may not offer the luxury of a bath. Many newly built hotels are offering showers only. Marriott, for example, is “advising our newly built hotels to put showers in 75 percent of the rooms and bathtubs in 25 percent of the rooms,” according to Marriott spokeswoman Laurie Goldstein. “Our research shows that business travelers prefer showers to baths but families like the flexibility of a bathtub as well as a shower.”

So if you’re traveling with a small child who’s going to need a bath before bedtime, call ahead to make sure your room has a tub.

Pump dispensers: The advent of pump dispensers in hotel bathrooms is good and bad news for those guests obsessed with the tiny bottles of shampoo and individually wrapped soaps that have been a beloved amenity for decades.

The good news: If you need more shampoo than what may be as little as a half-ounce in those small plastic containers, you can pump as much as you want from the dispenser. No more fighting with your roommate over that tiny bottle or running to the front desk before your 6 a.m. shower to get another one.

You can also feel greener if you use the pump. No more adding plastic throwaways to the waste stream.


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The bad news: What if you simply love those little bottles? The hand lotion is the perfect size to slip in your purse; and if you have leftover shampoo, the container is small enough to get through airport security. Or what if you find the pump dispensers unappealing? Some guests think they’re unsanitary and prefer to use an unopened individual soap or shampoo.

Fortunately, Hanson says, hotels that have switched to pump dispensers often have complimentary bottles or wrapped soaps upon request at the front desk.

Checking in electronically: Who needs to wait in line at the front desk to check in? Some of Starwood’s Aloft hotels are offering “Smart Check-In” to Starwood Preferred Guest program members. Members are sent a keycard with radio-frequency identification technology, and on the day of a planned stay, a text message is sent to the guest’s mobile device with a room number. Upon arrival, the guest proceeds to that room, and the keycard will open the door.

The technology is in place at Alofts in Brooklyn and Harlem in New York City, Lexington, Mass., Dallas, Jacksonville, Fla., and London.

Hanson says fully electronic check-in technology is being adapted by the hotel industry very slowly, but even as it becomes more widespread, he expects most hotels will still want staff in the lobbies to welcome guests and provide other services — if only to cater to an older generation that prefers human interaction to a touchscreen.

Locavore options: The locavore and hyperlocal trend that has taken over the food world is fast becoming de rigueur in the hotel industry, particularly at high-end and boutique properties where chefs are growing their own herbs and even hosting their own beehives. The W in San Francisco in September had a local beekeeper, Jack Ip, install hives on a rooftop with a goal of eventually producing honey for use in the hotel menu.

In New York City, the Andaz Wall Street hotel in Lower Manhattan sponsors a farmers market May through November in an arcade next to the hotel where produce, bread and other goods are sold by farmers and other vendors. The Andaz also sells fresh-squeezed juices and sandwiches in the market, and customers include hotel guests and neighborhood residents.

“Guests will come down and mingle with residents,” said Andaz spokeswoman Rachel Harrison. “It allows them to feel they’re really a part of the neighborhood. We want guests to feel like locals.”

Hotel Indigo, which has 30 properties in the U.S. and another eight worldwide, also partners with local vendors and purveyors to showcase local seasonal fare, like a barbeque pork sandwich on the menu at the Hotel Indigo in Asheville, N.C., and a local craft beer called SweetWater served at the Hotel Indigo in Atlanta.

Hotel Indigo is also working with celeb chef Curtis Stone on a contest called “Locals Know Best — Dish on the Dish,” in which the public is invited to nominate favorite dishes from neighborhood eateries. The contest runs through Oct. 15 and nominations can be submitted via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hotelindigo. You can meet Stone Sept. 30 and give him your recommendation in person at an event at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea, 127 W. 28th St., from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Futuristic pods whisk travelers around airport

Laser-guided travel pods that work without drivers or timetables were officially unveiled at London’s Heathrow airport on Friday.

The system, which was featured in an exhibition on the future of transport at London’s Science Museum in 2009, has become a reality, reducing the time it takes business passengers to move from terminal to car park by 60 percent.

Traveling at speeds up to 25 mph, after an average wait of just 34 seconds, the system looks like something straight from a science fiction film.

The pods, which run along tracks and allow passengers to select their destinations, use laser sensors to ferry business passengers and their luggage along a two-mile route.

According to ULTra, the company behind the technology, the 30 million pound ($47 million) development could transport up to 500,000 passengers each year and replace 50,000 shuttle bus journeys.

The British invention, which has been on trial at Heathrow since April, is the culmination of over 60 years of development. First dreamed up in the 1950s, it has now become a working reality under ULTra PRT president and former NASA engineer, Martin Lowson, who championed the idea while lecturing at Bristol University in the 1990s.

The company, now part-owned by Ferrovial’s British airports division BAA, is confident that the technology will prove popular. India recently announced it will pilot the system around Delhi and Amritsar and feasibility studies are currently in progress in Raleigh, N.C., in the United States.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

5 Great Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand

Things to do in Bangkok -- Wat Pho Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Things to do in Bangkok

Looking for exciting things to do in Bangkok?  There’s plenty to keep you busy in this Asian metropolis.

Check out our list below, and if you have even more exciting things to do in Bangkok, let us know in the comments section below.

Things to do in Bangkok — #1: Wat Arun

Things to do in Bangkok -- Wat Arun

Wat Arun, which is also called Temple of the Dawn, lies on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river.  It was started in 1809, and is one of the central landmarks of the Bangkok skyline.  To save money in Thailand while getting there, take a river ferry for 10 Baht (around 30 cents) from the dock just a short walk from the next of our things to do in Bangkok…

Things to do in Bangkok — #2: The Grand Palace

Things to do in Bangkok -- Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is one of the must-see things to do in Bangkok.  It is the former residence of the King of Thailand, and it is marvelous.  Open from 8:00 until 4:00 daily, the cost is 350 Baht (about 12 US dollars).  Warning though — do not listen to the “official” looking people outside. They will tell you it is closed because of a special holiday.  They are only trying to get you to go on a scam tuk-tuk ride.  Also, no need to rent or buy pants from the ladies outside the Grand Palace — they are available for free inside.  Stand your ground, and just walk right in.  If it is closed, the guard in the army uniform will tell you so, and the gates will be closed. After your tour of the Grand Palace, it’s a short walk to the next of our things to do in Bangkok…

Things to do in Bangkok — #3: Wat Pho

Things to do in Bangkok -- Wat Pho Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  It’s only 100 baht to get in, and is open daily from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Wat Pho is so much more than just the famous reclining Buddha though.  Take a walk around the expansive temples grounds and look in awe at the thousands of images of Buddha.  This temple also has some bragging rights — it was the birthplace of Thai Massage. You’ll need one after lugging around your loot in the next of our things to do in Bangkok…

Things to do in Bangkok — #4: Chatuchak Weekend Market

Things to do in Bangkok -- Chatuchak weekend market

Of all the great budget tips for Thailand the most important is this: BARTER! It is expected especially here. You can get all kinds of souvenirs here to take to the folks back home. You can get anything here — clothing, food, jewelry, live (and dead) animals, pottery, and the list goes on. Allow half a day to explore the market, and remember, it’s only open on weekends.  Bus 53 and 54 will take you to the Chatuchak Weekend Market from the Khao San Road area, and it costs only 24 Baht. After all that shopping, you will have earned the next of our things to do in Bangkok…

Things to do in Bangkok — #5:  Get a Thai Massage

Things to do in Bangkok -- fish massage

Or any type of massage for that matter — neck massage, foot massage, oil massage, and yes, even fish massage — they are all readily available on almost every street corner in Bangkok.  Price and quality vary, so ask around — your hotel will be a great resource. If you’re so inclined, you might want to also check out a Ping Pong Show while you’re in Thailand.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Bangkok?