Six Hotel Chains Now Allow Reward Point Gifts to Wounded Veterans
Today a new program launched that allows Americans to donate hotel rewards points to wounded U.S. veterans and their families. Six hotel chains have joined in the "Hotels for Heroes" program: AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Rodeway, etc.), Marriott, Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Aloft, etc.), and Wyndham.
For instance, a Best Western loyalty program member could donate 2,500 points by clicking the Best Western loyalty donation webpage. That donation would be worth a free night's stay at a Marriott hotel for military service members in need related to a medical condition.or a loved one visiting that person.
The program, Hotels for Heroes, hopes to cut travel costs for wounded veterans receiving military health care and their visitors. It will be run by the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, which has built 50 homes away from home for the relatives of veterans and military personnel who are wounded, injured or ailing and are being treated at regional medical facilities in the U.S. and Germany.
Hotels for Heroes is the next step for Fisher House, which has long enabled American travelers to give frequent-flier miles to the families of service-members at a military or Veterans Affairs medical center with its Hero Miles program.
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Apple Drops Google Maps: Will You Miss It?
Back in June, Apple made an announcement that sent shock waves through the techie world and shivers down travelers' spines: When they launch their new iOS6 operating system, they'll officially dump Google Maps and replace it with their own mapping app. It's safe to say that a vast majority of travelers have become completely reliant on Google Maps, for everything from driving directions to public transportation to scoping out new neighborhoods with Street View. So what can you expect from the Apple replacement? Flyover: Google offers the undeniably cool Street View feature, which has even recently moved beyond city streets and into national parks. So how can Apple compete? The short answer is, so far, it can't. Their new Flyover feature allows users to explore 3–D renderings of a limited number of cities (the Apple campus in Cupertino, Chicago, Copenhagen, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Sydney) in zoomable high resolution. A cool feature to be sure, but it's not particularly useful. Siri: You know her, you love her, you can't get enough of her. Everyone's favorite robot will be fully integrated into Apple's map system. When you ask Siri about a place, you'll get turn–by–turn directions. Perfect for those times when you're too lazy to type in an address. Local Search: Tap on a business on the map and you'll be greeted with a box full of information like Yelp reviews, photos, phone numbers, and deals. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('1340f3d5-5a98-4d8e-b26c-6b99e4a5d2de'); Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Do you trust Apple in the cartography department? Will the mapping app be as crisp, user–friendly, and progressive as the rest of their products? Or do you wish Google and Apple could just get along so you could have Google Maps back? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps Little Known Travel Tricks With Google Maps Finding A Hotel Is As Easy As Pointing To A [Google] Map
Banks Launch Credit Cards That Work Better Overseas
Americans traveling outside the US often find that their credit and debit cards don't work at many places, such as gas stations and ATMs. That's because most other countries have switched from magnetic stripe, signature-based cards to "chip-and-PIN" technology, which means that their cards come with a microprocessor chip that adds additional security. Last week, Bank of America began issuing credit cards with chips embedded in them, making them easy to use when traveling abroad. Not to worry: These cards still have the magnetic stripe and will be accepted as usual in the US. All new BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges, Virgin Atlantic travel credit cards, and Merrill Lynch credit cards will now come with the travel-friendly technology. Customers who hold the following cards will be able to visit banking centers or call BofA to ask to receive replacement cards with the chip:: BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Other banks will copy the move, as the production costs for the chips are dropping -- currently down to $3 a chip. Visa has told businesses they have until 2015 to switch to card-reading machines that accept chip-and-PIN cards. After that date, merchants will become liable for any fraud that may result from a fake signature. In related news, the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve has a chip. So does the Travelex Chip and Pin Card. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Death of the Travelers' Check? (40 comments) The Breakdown on 8 Travel Loyalty Programs in 2012 Citibank and Chase Drop Foreign Exchange Fees on Some Cards
IKEA Will Build 100 Budget Hotels in Europe
Everyone's favorite affordable furniture store, IKEA, will build a budget hotel chain across Europe. The first one will be in Germany, in 2014. Surprisingly, the 100 hotels in Germany, Austria, Britain, Holland, and Poland won't feature the company's famous flat-pack furniture—or even its brand name, according to a scoop in the Financial Times. Though fans hope that Swedish meatballs will still be served in any hotel restaurants. IKEA aims to cash in on the booming trend in "budget designer hotels," as represented in Europe by Motel One, citizenM, Chic and Basic, Leonardo Hotels, and B&B; Hotels. It's great news that budget hotels are finally getting their day in the sun. The much stronger dollar against the euro also means that Europe is becoming a good value again. Let's just hope guests at the IKEA's hotel chain won't have to assemble the beds and dressers ourselves. Or that the instructions for finding your room won't be as confusing as Ikea's diagrams for building furniture. In 2007, Ikea Norway created a pop-up Ikea Hostel. Earlier this year, Ikea created a pop-up lounge in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport (Terminal 3). But on a more serious note, if IKEA did go ahead and build a hotel that was just like its stores, would you stay in it if the price were right? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 26 Gorgeous Hotels You Won't Believe Are Under $150 Photos: World's Best New Affordable Hotels 39 Affordable Hotel Chains Only Locals Know
Looks like Carnival's anti-chair-hogging policy has gone fleet-wide. We told you about the program last month, which was limited to the new Carnival Breeze. It was so successful (and scored so much goodwill with passengers) that the line expanded it to all of their ships. And other cruise lines are jumping on the bandwagon. According to Travel Weekly, Norwegian Cruise Line is testing the waters with on the Norwegian Star—with a 45-minute grace period before your belongings are removed. Unofficial policies are also in place on Holland American and Royal Caribbean, which limit saving to 30-minutes. Don't dilly-dally on some Princess sailings, though—staff is reportedly allowed to remove belongings after just 15 minutes. So three cheers for not having to get up at the crack of dawn to get a good seat by the pool. Now that that's taken care of, where else would you like to see policies like these put in place? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 10 Common Cruise Myths—Debunked 12 Top Tips from the World's Best Cruisers Your Top 5 Money-Saving Cruise Questions—Answered