Bing Makes Navigating Airports a Breeze
Paris. Shanghai. LAX? Airports may not usually be listed among the world’s most exotic locales, but they can still be destinations in themselves. Unfortunately, they can also be confusing and time-consuming: searching out a café for a quick coffee before a flight or finding the correct baggage claim upon touchdown can make one’s airport experience more stressful than it needs to be.
With the new, free Airport Maps tool for its Bing search engine, Microsoft plans to change that. Users can now scour online maps for 42 airports in the United States, plotting out snack stops, ATM locations, terminals and restrooms.
The tool offers more than just static maps. Bing users can benefit from several useful features:
Seamless integration into Bing Maps. Just search for the name of an airport—or its city or code—and then zoom and drag to your heart’s content.
Microsoft might be the latest company to release an airport travel tool, but related applications for smart phones have been gaining steam for some time. Mobile travelers can check out the following tools for a smoother experience at the airport:
Apps and online tools can be helpful, but nothing beats experience. What are some of your strategies for making airports more navigable, interesting, or even—yes—fun?
— Ryan Murphy
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New Site Advises on How Not to Be a "Tourist"
If you're reading this travel blog, you probably think of yourself as a "traveler," not a tourist—as someone who travels to see life like a local, rather than only go to places that will impress your in-laws and high school friends. You're probably the kind of person who gets a laugh at a site like TackyTouristPhotos.com, which pokes fun at stereotypical tourist shots, such as pics of tourists misguidedly trying to blend in with French culture. A new site that travelers may like is How Not To Be A Tourist (HNTBAT.com), put together by locals for savvy travelers. It delivers insights into local customs and cheeky street-style photography on clothes you need to blend in. While in New York, for instance, How Not To Be A Tourist suggests you carry a messenger bag instead of a backpack or a fanny pack that screams "Mug Me, I'm From Out of Town." Like anyone trying to be funny, the site can try too hard and hit some wrong notes from time to time. But as a resident of London, I can at least confirm that their tips on the English capital are on the money—though their photos of what locals supposedly look like are very unrepresentative outside of the hipster neighborhoods of Hoxton, Dalston, and Shoreditch. HNTBT.com is still too new to have broad coverage yet of the US or of the globe. Right now, it offers content for cities the size of New York City, with Melbourne and Paris in the works. Copying the AirBnB model, the site also offers lodging alternatives to hotels. Dear reader, now it's your turn: What are your tips for not looking like a "tourist"? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL New Site Tracks Outrageous Souvenirs Travel Photo Tips for Kids 25 Most Photographed Places on Earth
One Airline Boards Its Customers Faster Than Most
An article in this morning's New York Times quotes a Boeing study that found boarding times to have increased by 15 to 25 minutes since the 1970s. Getting people on planes used to take 15 minutes, now it typically takes between 30 to 40 minutes. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('56fcca7f-a4a5-4809-a1a8-108be8f8f2f6');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)There is, however, at least one airline that still manages to get all of its customers onboard in just 15 minutes. That airline is Southwest. The reasons why boarding times have increased for other airlines might shed a light on why Southwest's process is so speedy. According to the New York Times article, the problem is largely due to the revenue-driving measures most airlines have added in the last couple of decades. First, you have fees for checked luggage, which means that more people are bringing their belongings into the cabin—and slowing everybody down by trying to find room in the overhead bins (and blocking the aisles while they do so). Interestingly enough, when Spirit Airlines started charging passengers $20 to 40 per carry-on bag (more than they charge to check luggage), their boarding times decreased by six minutes on average. Next, in addition to business and first class, you have new classes of passengers—premium economy, early boarding—which complicates the boarding process (and spells less overhead bin space for the coach travelers who follow). On top of that, airlines have been cutting capacity left and right, which means that planes are more packed than ever. So what does Southwest do right? Essentially the opposite of everybody else: they don’t assign seats, they don’t charge to check luggage, and they don't offer different "classes" of seating. They do have two options for travelers to board early (either by purchasing a "Business Select" ticket or the "early-bird check-in" pass for $10), but otherwise, people just grab seats as they get on the plane. The results are fewer obstacles in the aisle and a faster gate-to-seat experience. But do travelers appreciate the faster process? I've heard the boarding procedure at Southwest described as a "cattle call," and having been through the experience myself I can say that at times it feels more hectic than on other airlines (there is something comforting about knowing exactly which seat you will sit in). Given how much money major U.S. airlines make on ancillary fees ($12.5 billion in 2011 alone), it seems unlikely other companies will be adopting the Southwest boarding model anytime soon, but as the airlines explore new methods of getting people on planes, it certainly can't hurt for us to sound off on what we like (and don't like). Thoughts? Opinions? Do you appreciate the Southwest boarding method? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Video: the Best Way to Board Airplanes 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 5 Credit Cards Every Traveler Should Consider
The Legal Ramifications Of Drinking And Flying
Have you ever been on a plane next to someone who seems a little wobbly? Maybe they smell a bit of rum and coke. Or are slurring. Maybe they start to act up a little, start demanding more drinks, or harassing the crewmembers and other passengers. It's one thing to have a drink before your flight, or to have some wine with dinner onboard. But, if you're wondering what the consequences are for being completely intoxicated on a flight, they can be pretty severe. Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles was diverted to Denver after a drunken passenger struck a flight attendant in the face, the Associated Press reported. Flight attendants had to restrain and sit on him until the flight landed, upon which he was arrested and charged with interfering with flight crew. First off, a passenger who already appears intoxicated at the gate shouldn’t be allowed to board, according to federal regulations. Air carriers have federally-required protocol for dealing with disturbances involving the service of alcoholic beverages onboard, the removal of a passenger who appears to be intoxicated, and how to handle passengers who have brought their own alcoholic beverages onboard (I personally witnessed this last one myself, when an elderly woman on an international flight I was on tried to crack open her Duty Free vodka bottle). If a passenger doesn't comply with federal regulations and interferes with a crewmember, it can be considered a criminal violation, resulting in arrest. In August, the U.S. Ski Team dismissed an 18-year-old member of its development squad after he was accused of getting drunk and then urinating on a fellow passenger aboard a JetBlue flight to New York, according to a story in USA Today. Criminal charges were later dropped. While these are some of the more extreme cases, surely many readers have been in a situation that could have veered towards the uncomfortable and even dangerous had a passenger's drinking habits escalated during the flight. Have any drunken passenger horror stories you care to share? Indulge (but perhaps don't over overindulge) us in the comment section below. More from Budget Travel: Are Ads Inside Planes and on Rental Cars Obnoxious? Trip Coach: Share Your Upgrade Strategies Ever seen a flight attendant freak out?
Are Ads Inside Planes and on Rental Cars Obnoxious?
Or can you deal with them if the tradeoff is cheaper prices? European carrier Ryanair isn't only a pioneer in terms of charging low fares upfront and then nickel-and-diming passengers with fees after they've booked. The airline has also been ahead of the times with its decision to basically turn its airplanes into giant billboards in order to make money via advertising. In 2006, Ryanair announced a partnership with a company called InviseoMedia, which installed ads where they were sure to find the attention of a seriously captive audience: on the seatbacks of the carrier's planes. By 2007, the New York Times reported that ads were popping up pretty much everywhere passengers looked inside certain aircraft. There were ads on the overhead bins and seatbacks inside planes operated by Ryanair and another European low-fare carrier, Germanwings. Ads also showed up on napkins and tray tables aboard the likes of AirTran and US Airways. USA Today recently reported that Spirit Airlines, which has followed Ryanair's lead in terms of piling on fees, is now leading the charge among American carriers in terms of on-board advertising. Advertisers' messages are front and center on Spirit flights, from the aprons worn by flight attendants to (no kidding) the air sickness bags. It's enough to, well, make some passengers nauseous. Airlines aren't the only facet of the travel experience being inundated with new ads. A Budget Rent a Car location in Atlanta made news over the summer by offering customers discounted rates if they agreed to drive vehicles that prominently advertised local companies. At least the renters received a discount in the ad deal. With ads in (and sometimes, on) airlines, the tradeoff isn't so clear. The rise of ad-splatted airplanes has coincided with a period in which airlines have pulled in billions more in passenger fees, while at the same time flight prices have risen steadily, even among the so-called "discount" or "low-fare" carriers. Regardless of whether ads help lower travel costs, and regardless of whether airline passengers like, hate, or ignore in-flight ads, they appear to be here to stay, as unavoidable as TSA checkpoint lines. The reason why this is so is explained in the USA Today story by GuestLogix, a company that helps airlines sell on-board purchases: "Airline passengers are among the greatest consumers in the world," the company says. "They are focused shoppers with a strong appetite to purchase." Based on this assumption, airlines just feel like they have to sell to passengers during every part of the travel experience. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Should Hotels That Charge for Wi-Fi Be Boycotted? Buy Your Holiday Plane Tickets Now to Avoid Fare Hikes Would You Skip Housekeeping for a Cheaper Hotel Bill?