How to Gear Up for a Great Trip

Whether you’re off to see the sights, ski the slopes, or sunbathe on the sand, it pays to be an informed travel shopper. To help you avoid vacation frustration, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers these tips.

  • Buy your vacation package from a business you have confidence in. Ask family and friends to recommend a company with a good track record. Think twice if you can’t get a person on the phone to answer your questions or if the ad doesn’t give the company’s street address. Contact the state Attorney General, consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau where you live and where the company is based to see if there is a history of complaints on file.
  • Be on the alert for the telltale signs of a travel scam. Unsolicited faxes or emails for deeply discounted travel packages promise the world. But the fraudsters behind these offers will leave you at the gate.
  • Verify and clarify. Call to verify your reservations and arrangements. Get the details behind vague promises that you’ll be staying at a “five-star” resort or sailing on a “luxury” cruise ship. When you have the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the airlines, car rental companies, and hotels you’ll be using, confirm all arrangements for yourself.
  • Put it on paper. Get the details of your vacation in writing. Get a copy of the company’s cancellation and refund policies, and ask “What if…?” Consider whether some form of travel cancellation insurance may be appropriate.
  • Use a credit card to make your purchase. If you don’t get what you paid for, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. However, don’t give your account number to any business until you’ve verified that it is reputable.
  • Avoid a travel club flub. Ask questions before joining a travel club. Sometimes, a “free trial” membership can result in unauthorized charges on your credit card. Find out what you’ll get for your money and how you can cancel.
  • Won a “free” vacation? Not so fast. Scam artists may tell you you’ve won a “free” vacation, but then claim to need your credit card number for “verification.” Tell ‘em to take a hike. If the promotion is legit, you never need to pay for a prize.


Buying Bags in Hong Kong

I just returned from Hong Kong where in addition to the work I had to do there I had the opportunity to shop for some much anticipated upgrades to some of my mobile gear. Here is a shop near the Ladies Market in Mongkok which had all kinds of designer knock-offs for a fraction of the price. If you get off at Mongkok station and head towards the ladies market (there are signs) you won’t miss it.
Additional view in my Photoset.

Introducing Chiva-Som. Thailand’s first luxury health resort.

“Voted in 2004 as ‘The Best Overseas Destination Spa’ by readers of Conde Nast Traveller (UK), Chiva-Som is a world-renowned, luxury, health resort located on the beach of Hua Hin some 220 Kilometres south of Bangkok. Chiva-Som, meaning ‘Haven of Life’ is a beautiful secluded world of its own hidden within seven acres of lush tropical gardens. The resort offers individualised programmes and treatments for everyone from weight loss and stress reduction to total relaxation and pure pampering.”
Lucie Wood writes about her experiences here: “I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this resort was unlike any spa I had been to. This was no boot camp. There was no 6am wake-up call and three hours of yoga and meditation were not required before breakfast. In fact, in terms of atmosphere, Chiva-Som is more like heaven than an overpriced hell enjoyed only by health junkies.”
Add this to your list of places to unwind and regenerate in Asia.

Koyono Outerwear and Shirts for iPod

Koyono has just announced its spring and summer line of outerwear — jackets and coats equipped with integrated iPod controls. These are primarily designed for those of you in the northern hemisphere as I have been wearing shorts and t-shirts for a month or two. Their spring and summer jackets integrate iPod control pads into the lapels of their jacket, enabling you to control your iPod without ever removing your player from it’s pocket. Controls include volume, track change and power. Each of the jackets also includes water protection and pocketing for commuting or travel. Their whole apparel line are great commercial ubiquitous computing controls.
The BlackCoat-T LS shown above is designed to allow one to discreetly and safely transport your iPod or mobile discreetly and out of sight. Looks great and really the only solution for those of who seldom get the chance to wear jackets.
Prices range from $199 to $275 for the jackets. $27 for the long sleeve t-shirt. Buy direct from Koyono.

Outpac Travel Safe

I am traveling this weekend and staying at less than 4 star hotels so I have been looking at some ways to secure my valuables. I prefer subtlety to more in your face attempts to safe guard my valuables when traveling but for some who have come to reply upon the false security hotel safes this might be a necessary product. No doubt that this will deter but the more determined thief. This tough bag is made with high-tensile, stainless-steel wire which is laminated between durable nylon fabric to form a rugged pouch. The bag cinches at the top with a draw wire which you secure to the heaviest object in the room with the included padlock. About $40.00US from REI.

Nike+ iPod Gear

Things get busy for me and what happens? I miss all kinds of cool product launches. Nike and Apple announced that they are teaming up to launch a selection of Nike+iPod products. The first product they have introduced is the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, a wireless system that allows Nike+ footwear to transfer workout data to an iPod nano “connect(ing) you to the ultimate personal running and workout experience”. It’s similar at least in spirit to some product concepts that I (and a million other grad students) worked on a couple years ago. The Nike+iPod Sport Kit includes an in-shoe sensor and a receiver that attaches to iPod. With the Nike+ footwear connected to iPod nano through the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, information on time, distance, calories burned and pace is stored on iPod and displayed on the screen; real-time audible feedback also is provided through headphones. The data can also be transferred to a Mac or PC once you get back from your run for further analyzation. It will be available in July for about $29.00US for the sensor. Naturally, shoes and iPod sold separately. AppleNike.

Denko Waterproof Wallet

This wallet might be overkill for me – the only water I find myself in these days comes bursting from the skies – but if you are lucky enough to spend your free time in the water you might want to check out the denko pakpak. Water proof down to 50m the pakpak will keep your cash and cards dry so that after spending hours in the water you are not left with soggy money when you relax at the lounge. About $30.00US

Brooklyn Industries Laptop Sleeve Sale

Brooklyn Industries have a number of their bags on sale including their Solid Laptop Sleeve which is selling for $12.00US – they are practically giving them away! I’m already a big fan of their Vertigo Bag so this is a no brainer for me. The sleeve features all around padding with soft inner lining and a top flap with velcro closure. Also check out the Power Bag and the Laptop Bag which are on sale for $44.00US and $49.00US respectively. As they say, deals like this don’t come by everyday, jump on it while you can. Thanks Pop Gadget.

Incase Sling Pack

I always thought sling packs were a short term fad – why use one strap when you can distribute the load over two? Seeing as I was completely wrong on this assumption I thought it worthwhile investigating this form a back as a possible solution to the “strap sweat” that happens when trucking around a large and heavy backpack or messenger. The Incase Sling Pack was one of the first bags I found that would look appropriate for the office. It has very simple lines and textured trimmings for a very modern and sporty feel. It’s made from ballistic nylon with an internal compartment and back that are well padded for added protection and comfort. The Sling Pack fits most 12″, 15″ and 17″ laptops (no word of the new MacBooks or MacBook Pros) and has enough room for plenty of extras. I think it looks great and certainly worth considering. $65.00US from Koyono.

The Archetype Sleeve for MacBook and MacBook Pro

Tom Bihn bags has announced the availability of their new laptop sleeve the Archetype last week. It’s worth noting this new release from Tom Bihn not it’s expected quality but for it’s departure from a rather muted approach to style he has had in the past. While I think his bags have always looked great, the Archetype is available in three unique and rich fabrics, Genuine Cork, Galvanized Majilite, and Snow Leopard Ultrasuede. All of which make a fairly loud visual statement. These bags are designed initially in four sizes to fit the 13″ MacBook, 17″ MacBook Pro, 15.4″ MacBook Pro, and the “we’re sorry to see you go” 12″ Powerbook. $95.00US.

Sanya Package Tours from Dragonair

Hainan Province in China is a burgeoning location for travel in Asia. With it’s beautiful beaches, Sanya on the southern tip of the island is perhaps the most popular. Flying out of Hong Kong Dragonair is offering from May 1 2006 – April 30 2007 a special Sanya Easy 3 day package with a variety of hotel packages available. Prices start at about 1,610HK$ per person. Tour price includes: round trip economy class ticket between Hong Kong and Sanya, 2 nights hotel accommodation with breakfast, round trip transfers between the airport and hotel by scheduled coach, and travel insurance. Unfortunately it’s only bookable through a travel agent (use tour code: IT6KA3HKG13A, IT6KA3HKG13B) but it looks like a great mini-break if you are in the region on business.
Dragonair Sanaya Easy Tour.
Sanya Profile and History

Sleeping on Planes Tips

Traveling to Asia or in my case traveling home usually involves at least one flight lasting 12 hours or more. The best way to pass away what could be the most uncomfortable half-day of your life is to sleep as much as possible. I’ve tried numerous strategies with the best involving midnight flights and EVA Air Evergreen Deluxe. The Independent Traveler has some advice for us on how we can sleep in what must be the most uncomfortable environment we pay to be in. Gridskipper provides this synopsis:

Avoid the last row of the plane, any seats in front of the exit row, bulkhead and aisle seats in favor of window seats. Take one carry-on. Skip the coffee. Board early so you can nab a blanket and pillow. Bring a neck pillow from home. Wear shoes you can slip off easily. Wear ear plugs. Take sleeping pills if you please. And feel free to recline your chair back, but don’t be a wanker about it.

Sleeping on Planes

Begeren Tribeca Laptop Bag

Linda Ly sent me an email some time ago introducing her new line of bags, Begeren, which she plans on having available this summer. Linda worked as a freelance graphic artist for over 6 years before turning her design talents to handbags. Her artistic background and a love of fashion have produced a line of bags which she thinks will appeal to the no fuss woman who want a marriage of fashion and function. Us guys are not left out as her Tribeca laptop bag looks absolutely beautiful. It reminds of a time when myself and many of my musician friends would go and have one of a kind bags created for our gear. This bag has that a unique look (the suede and brass hardware look amazing together) and I trust quality to match. The Tribeca laptop bag includes a padded, removable sleeve insert that can fit a 15″ laptop. It has ample compartments for cords, mouse, CDs, iPod and all the other gadgets we seem designed to carry. The Tribeca Laptop Bag is $1,375.00US and can pr-ordered on the begeren site. Delivery is set for July 1.

We Carry Too Much With Us

According to the Washington Post we carry too much. There is a tendency for people to carry every possible tech. gadget around on their person whether it will be used (this month) or not. A way to show our financial or tech. richness? Or perhaps carrying around the tools of our trade everywhere we go is a sign that we are married to our work. Unlike the workers of yesteryear we cannot escape our work nor do we seem to want to.
“Slogging around with a backpack, a notebook and a bottle of water, you stop for a while and stare at the historic black-and-white photographs in the National Museum of American History. You know, the ones depicting Americans going about their everyday lives: folks waiting for District trolley cars circa 1900, for instance, or people crisscrossing Pennsylvania Avenue in 1905.
Notice something missing? That’s right: stuff.
The people — all ages, all colors, all genders — are not carrying any backpacks or water bottles. They are not schlepping cell phones, cradling coffee cups or lugging laptops. They have no bags — shopping, tote or diaper. Besides a small purse here or a walking cane or umbrella there, they are unburdened: footloose and fingers free.
Now walk outside and take a look around. People on the same city streets are loaded down. They are laden with books, newspapers, Gatorade jugs, personal stereos, knapsacks, briefcases and canvas totes with high-heel shoes inside. They have iPods strapped to upper arms, fanny packs buckled around waists and house keys Velcroed to shoelaces.”
Burdens of the Modern Beast. Registration may be required.