Travel Update with Barb

An accomplished newspaper journalist (USA TODAY staff 2002-2013) and relentless social media enthusiast, Barb wakes up at dawn seven days a week to search for, write and edit stories that resonate with travelers and travel business insiders. She craves stories that teach us something about life or business, make us laugh, shed light on our future or help make our journeys a little easier– or at least more interesting.

My good-bye to BoardingArea, and hello to American Airlines!

Dear BoardingArea bloggers and readers and TravelUpdate readers, Thank you so much for reading my blog posts, sharing your thoughts and opinions, and sometimes keeping me on my toes! It has been a privilege tracking down news about the hotel and airline industries for you as a blogger at BoardingArea.com (thanks to frequent flier guru Randy Petersen) and previously as a journalist-turned-blogger for USA TODAY. I am truly grateful for the travel conversations we’ve had here as well as on Twitter and Facebook, where talk has ranged from the business of selling hotel rooms to flier etiquette – and everything in between. Today, however, I have news of my...

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Forgot my Ray Ban sunglasses at Tampa’s TSA checkpoint, but I’m getting them back!

When I left Tampa last month, I hurried through the airport and rushed through the TSA checkpoint. Shoes off: check. Laptop out of bag: check. Sunglasses off: check. So, once through the checkpoint, I picked up my fairly organized group of belongings and quickly re-assembled myself. But I wasn’t so late that I was panicking. I was calm enough to take the time to place my license back into my wallet before proceeding to my gate and even exchanged pleasantries with the TSA agent. While I recall seeing an empty jewelry/wallet basket near my belongings, it just didn’t click…until it was too...

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Nightmare hotel stories, great taco joints & other road stories from up-and-coming band Fire and the Romance

By Barbara DeLollis and Felix Contreras As the alt-pop band Fire and the Romance (current single, “She’s a Devil“) prepares the release of their new album and supporting tour through the US northeast, frontman Dion Roy checks his to-do list: strategic venues, radio station appearances, media interviews and reliable hotels. These days, musicians are forced to use the road to make money as the record business falters and bands count more on ticket sales than record sales. Fire and the Romance begins its Northeast Tour with a New York concert on Nov 10. (Details: Fireandtheromance.com/tour.) In an earlier era, touring rock...

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Hilton’s Curio guests expected to stay longer and spend more, brand chief says

McLEAN, VA. – By the end of 2015, Hilton Worldwide expects to be running 25 to 30 hotels in key metro areas under its newest brand, Curio so I recently sat down with Curio brand chief Dianna Vaughan to learn more. The brand is meant to be a collection of quirky, interesting hotels that keep their own identity. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned is that the personality of the target Curio customer will likely drive them to spend more than guests at other Hilton hotels during a stay. “We are assuming the length of stay will be longer and they will spend more,” Vaughan told...

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What’s your flying routine? ‘Flying is for reading,’ BoardingArea’s Goddard says

Do you have a routine when you’re 30,000 feet in the sky for work? I’m posing this question after my recent conversation with U.S. Army Brigadier General Glenn Goddard, one of the many BoardingArea.com bloggers who flies frequently for his or her demanding jobs. And Goddard has a very specific flying routine, which – during our conversation – I realized that it might just be the only travel topic that I have never written about! (Goddard, by the way, co-writes The Military Frequent Flyer with Andy Sheep, a doctor and lieutenant commander in the US Navy.) “Flying is for reading,” he told me. When...

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Do Hilton HHonors members redeem points differently under the peak pricing model?

McLEAN, VA. – Remember when Hilton Worldwide’s loyalty program adopted the peak-period pricing program in March 2013? Since then, some hotels – especially those in high-demand markets such as New York – began charging Hilton HHonors members more points to redeem a free night during peak times, and fewer points during slower times. The move was intended to make hotel owners happy since they felt they weren’t getting a fair redemption rate during heavy demand periods when they could sell rooms for much higher rates. In New York, peak periods would include Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, while in Austin, Texas, the dates during which the South by Southwest festival runs would be considered peak time. TWITTER: Join Barb DeLollis on Twitter MORE ONLINE: Marriott to adopt new reservation cancellation policy Jan. 1, 2015 MORE ONLINE: More hotels buy TRX suspension ropes MORE ONLINE: Hilton’s experiment with room service will spark a trend So when I sat down recently with Mark Weinstein, the Hilton HHonors program chief, at Hilton hotel restaurant next to Hilton’s headquarters building, I asked him about consumers’ reaction. The reaction has been mixed, he said. Some hotels (with the year-and-a-half-year-old peak pricing model in place) saw no change in terms of HHonors points redemptions during peak periods, while others saw a decrease, Weinstein told me. “When members want to go on vacation, they figure out a destination and then figure out how to pay for...

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Exclusive: Marriott to adopt new hotel cancellation policy on Jan. 1, 2015

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, Marriott International will officially adopt a stricter reservation cancellation policy than what is currently in place at most of its properties, TravelUpdate.com has learned. Marriott told Travel Update that the goal is to sell more rooms, as opposed to collecting more reservation penalty fees. Once the policy takes effect, consumers will have until 11:59 p.m. local time the day before check-in in order to avoid paying a penalty charge, according to the email obtained by Travel Update that Marriott sent to hotel operators on Friday. Marriott expects that “most hotels will want to follow the new policy,” according to the...

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Washington D.C.: How to get tickets to the National Christmas Tree Lighting event

WASHINGTON D.C. – If you’re planning to be in Washington during Dec. 4, like to experience local traditions and you tend to be a lucky person, here’s a tip for you. On Oct. 17, you can enter the lottery to win free tickets to attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony outdoors at the Ellipse, the grassy area on the south side of the White House. The annual event was started under President Calvin Coolidge in 1923. POTUS has attended ever since. The catch to landing tickets?  Apply early and get lucky or know someone who’s lucky, since you can’t buy tickets. You...

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Road warrior fitness: Hotels are slowly starting to embrace TRX suspension equipment

HERSHEY, PA. – When we’re on the road often, working out in the hotel gym can get boring so I’m always watching for new distractions – and possible trends. And now, for the first time in years, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found something new and interesting. In addition to the yoga mats and exercise balls that hotels have been adding over the last five or so years, I’m starting to find TRX suspension training equipment that was initially used in the Navy SEALS. As you can see in the photo above, the TRX equipment looks like a...

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Marriott Hotels to test wireless smartphone charger in 29 lobbies

Finally, a hotel chain has listened to the mobile-device-dependent traveler who often seeks a battery charge! This fall, Marriott Hotels will roll out portable charging stations that will let customers charge up to six smartphones at one time. The device, for now, will appear in 29 hotels so don’t expect to see the Kube charger  pop up in every single Marriott lobby just yet – but that day will apparently come. “We are focused on rolling out the chargers” for the full Marriott brand, spokesman John Wolf told me yesterday. For consumers, the benefit is clear. For people sitting, dining or drinking in...

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