Bed bugs take to the skies
Just when you thought you had put bed bugs out of your mind, they show up again, in the most unlikely of places, most recently having made an appearance on a British Airways flight.
As reported in the Daily Mail, British Airways fumigated one of its planes last month after a passenger complained of being badly bitten by bed bugs.
The passenger, 28-year-old Zane Selkirk, created a website devoted to her ordeal, ba-bites.com, on which she writes that she had "two horrendous flights" in January and February on British Airways. "During the first, I turned on my light to find bugs crawling on my blanket and a bedbug-blood-spattered shirt. On the return journey, I left my 10-hour flight to find my body covered with 90 bug bites." (Be warned, she posted some pretty graphic photos of her bites!)
According to the Daily Mail, BA confirmed that bugs had been found on one of the planes, which had flown from Los Angeles to Heathrow, and fumigated the aircraft before putting it back into service. BA did not confirm an infestation on Selkirk's second flight, from Bangalore to Heathrow.
Last fall, the bed bug epidemic in New York spread from popular retail stores to movie theatres. And now with this latest news, it would appear that even our airspace isn't safe.
As if reading into our (okay, my) collectively increasing paranoid consciousness, riding the subway the other day, I saw an advertisement for a new iPhone bed bug app—BedBugs 101, which purports to be a "comprehensive reference guide for locating and identifying bed bugs, loaded with information, images and detailed travel tips."
And for those that want to further arm themselves with information and products, Budget Travel asked for reader's tips on the matter (there are some good ones) in a recent post. And in January, Budget Travel's Editor in Chief Nina Willdorf gave advice on packing a bed bug-free suitcase on NBC's the Today Show.
More from Budget Travel:
A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase
What's the biggest phone bill you've ever been socked with after returning from a trip?
There are many enticing new travel apps to use while abroad, but beware, you may become afflicted with Bill Shock. "Bill shock" is the sudden, unexpected increase in your mobile phone bill from one month to the next. If you've experienced it, you're not alone. According to an FCC survey, 30 million people—or one in six—experienced "bill shock" in just two months in 2010. One of the biggest types of complaints the FCC received last year concerned international roaming charges consumers ran up while abroad without realizing it. We here at Budget Travel can attest to that: One of our editors returned from a trip to Turks & Caicos with a homecoming gift of a $900 phone bill. These bills happen because if you aren't using Wi-Fi to check your email, Internet, or your QR code app, you are therefore using your data roaming, and are charged a pretty penny—or just over a penny to be exact—at $.0195 per kilobyte. So if you're downloading a five megapixel picture from an email, that's about 2 megabytes of data, or an expensive $40. (Here are some handy tips on how to avoid these crazy charges.) Of course we don't expect these services to be free while abroad, but do they have to be so much? According to the European Union, they don't. The EU has put an end to the "roaming rip-off" by creating blanket standards for all nations within the EU so Europeans who make calls or send texts can "experience the EU's single market without borders." There is a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded so as to lesson those pesky data roaming charges, and no roamed call in another EU country can cost more than €0.43 per minute. Automatic alerts are now mandated when a consumer is about to approach the limits of their text, voice, and data plans, and when they are about to incur roaming charges. Hopefully soon the US will follow suit. The FCC has been investigating phone-billing practices for more than a year now and often mediates between consumers and their carriers, helping the consumer achieve compensation. (You can file your bill shock complaint here.) The FCC acknowledges that alerts when consumers are nearing their text, voice, and data limits could help avoid bill shock, but so far, no strict rules have been passed. The largest complaint the FCC received in the first half of 2010 was for $68,505! What's the biggest phone bill you've ever been socked with when you returned home? See more from Budget Travel The 10 Most Travel-Inspiring Films of the Year Take an Affordable Safari How to Survive 10 Travel Emergencies
QR codes: What travelers need to know
Talk about cryptic codes. Strange black-and-white boxes—with monster, checkerboard patterns—are popping up on billboards and tourist signs across the U.S. The codes are even more common in England, appearing in subway ads and magazine articles. The most playful example I've seen has been at Rosa's, an excellent Thai restaurant in London's Soho neighborhood, where every server wears a T-shirt with a QR code printed on the back. So what are these QR codes, and how do you scan them? Anyone with a smartphone can scan and read QR, or "Quick Response," codes with the click of its camera. By scanning the codes, you can access images, websites, and text via your device's Web browser. Scanning the code can help you pinpoint relevant information more quickly than by doing a search on your phone's Web browser. Google, for instance, has distributed more than 100,000 of these QR codes to shops and restaurants across the U.S., to be displayed prominently. Scan the code in a shop window, and you can read customer reviews and receive coupons for specials. Scanning a QR code is easy. As Budget Travel explained in its recent QR code guide: First you'll have to download a QR code "reader" or "scanner." There are tons of these available for free download in many of the app stores for different devices. Here's how to find them: 1. For Apple devices like the iPhone, click here. Android users should download the top-rated, free app QuickMark Barcode Scanner. Blackberry users should consider trying the free Code Muncher app. or 2. Check out http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software for a ton of links and reviews for QR code-readers. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Google's new window decals may help travelers Travel photos: Tools to find the "Golden Hour" Picking the best social network for travel Delta is turning the flight-bumping game into a reverse auction
Google's street view travels inside museums
Years ago, if you wanted to see Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus," you purchased a ticket to Florence. Or maybe you studied the painting in a tattered art book left over from your days as an Art History major. But, no longer. Last week 17 museums, including the Uffizi, the MoMA, and the Palace at Versailles teamed up with Google's Art Project to give you the ultimate virtual art experience. The project uses Google's Street View to take you inside the museums so you can "walk" the halls of some of the world's most famous exhibits. The project was conceived when a group of self-professed art lovers at Google decided it was high time to make art more accessible to the public for free. And then, Google being Google, they blinked, snapped their fingers, and magically it happened. The team at Google's Street View, responsible for creating the "last zoom layer on the map," used a "trolley" to capture 360-degree images of the museum interiors and then stitched those images together. The result is a seamless photo-log that lets you tour the museum and zoom in on hundreds of fine paintings and sculptures. Once you select a painting or sculpture to view, a panel provides additional information about the artwork, such as Youtube videos. But if just viewing a painting isn't enough for you, keep zooming. Each of the 17 museums has selected, at its own discretion, one piece of artwork to be featured and photographed in such fine detail (7-billion pixels!) that you can view it at near sub-brushstroke level. Take, for example, Van Gogh's "Starry Night" from the MoMA's art collection. The picture is captured at a high resolution (that's around 1,000 times more detailed than your average digital camera) so that you can see each brushstroke and crack in the paint in microscopic detail. And if that's not enough, you can create your own gallery (because, in this digital era, what's the point if you can't let everyone know what you like?). The "Create an Artwork Collection" feature allows you to select your favorite pieces and create your own collection. You can share it with friends and family, and add comments to individual pieces or the entire collection. Of course, this technology doesn't come without scrutiny. Critics argue that digitized museums may take the place of the real thing, or actually detract from the experience of seeing a piece live and in color. As The Daily Beast says, " at its best, the one-on-one, hours-long, in-the-flesh encounter with a work of art in a museum can be thought of as an antidote to the disembodied, Google-powered rush of laptop-life…the Art Project risks collapsing the two experiences." What do you think? Will you visit these virtual museums? Does technology take away from the authentic experience? —Madeline Grimes See more from Budget Travel: Awesome Art Hotels The Connected Traveler Ten Best Travel Destinations for 2011
Earn flight reward points on Facebook!
I'll be the first to admit it: For all the constructive potential of Facebook (facebook.com)—making travel contacts, generating news, professional networking, etc.—all I really do when I log on is aimlessly scroll through friends' photos and giggle at silly status updates. Now, hopefully, my time on the social-media site will be a little more lucrative, thanks to a new application from JetBlue. The New York-based carrier—which ranked a close second to Southwest last year as "Favorite Airline" in our Readers' Choice Poll—recently unveiled a new rewards program called "Go Places" through Facebook. Becoming a member is free and easily done on the airline's Facebook fan page. Once you join, the Go Places app allows you to check in for flights—virtually, using a smartphone, iPad, or other wireless device—at JetBlue terminals across the country. Each time you do so, you'll earn 25 points in the airline's popular TrueBlue loyalty program . In addition, JetBlue will offer special promotional deals exclusively to Go Places members. The first of these, which runs through March 1st, will grant 100 TrueBlue points to the first 100 travelers who check in via Go Places at Boston'sLogan International Airport, California's Long Beach Airport, New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Orlando international airports. Users who check in five times using Go Places before March 1st will get $100 off a JetBlue Getaways package. Finally, something really worth "liking" on Facebook! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Facebook for Travelers: The site is good for more than connecting with friends. New travel tools make it easy to blog, upload photos, and plan your trip. New travel stress: Facebook oversharing Facebook: A traveler's cheat sheet