Airplane tickets, broken lamps, and Crazy Glue: David’s Travel Tips

on a planeI’ve been doing a lot of traveling the past 7-8 years, mainly for speaking and consulting engagements. And I have picked up some travel tips along the way, including:

1. The airline doesn’t always provide a room for the night if your flight is delayed, even if they promise they will.

2. Some airports are more comfortable to sleep in than others. (see #1)

3. If you return your rental car in great condition, but then the rental car company wants to charge you for a bunch of damage, your insurance agent can help (apparently one of the airport rental car employees banged up the car after I returned it, and tried to blame it on me. Didn’t work).

4. If you travel internationally, bring along some familiar cold and flue meds. Just in case. (Hat tip to Sarah Houghton for this one).

I have two more things to add to my list of interesting travel tips that I picked up on my trip to Monterey for Internet librarian 2013 (great conference, by the way – I picked up a bunch of useful stuff this year! If you’ve never been, you should think about attending).

What did I learn?

5. You have to communicate with the airline if you miss your flight, or they will automatically cancel your whole round trip ticket.

I booked my Kansas City to Monterey flight pretty early. Then my travel plans changed, and I needed to go to Chicago for a meeting first, and then travel to Monterey from there. And to complicate things further, my family drove me up to Chicago (to see my oldest daughter).

Instead of flying out of Kansas City, I needed to fly out of Chicago … but I already had a round trip ticket from Kansas City to Monterey and back. And of course simply canceling my first ticket included a $200 dollar cancellation fee. Yikes!

So, instead of paying a cancellation fee, I booked a second one-way flight for about $170, and just ignored my first flight, figuring that I’d be a no-show, and everything would be fine for my return trip home, since it was already booked, and I hadn’t canceled anything. $30 bucks saved, right?

Wrong.

On Wednesday night (last night of Internet Librarian), I tried to check-in to my return flight. I opened up my United iPhone app, tried to check in, and received a “this trip is canceled” message. Huh? So I logged into my Expedia account, and found the same thing. Canceled.

Uh oh.

Then I called Expedia’s customer service (after hunting for their phone number – not easy to find), and explained my situation to them. They helped me book a one-way ticket back to Kansas City (my home airport).

Who knew? When I’m traveling and a flight gets delayed, I get all sorts of warnings and reminders on my iPhone. Texts and emails from Expedia and the airline, and alerts from TripIt Pro (an iPhone travel app I use), all warning me of impending doom and plane delays. United even calls me with one of those silly automated “you’ve been delayed” recordings. Multiple times.

But when you don’t show up for your flight? No calls. No texts. No emails. They “helpfully” decide to cancel everything and take all your money anyway.

Lesson learned (three plane tickets later): if your travel plans change, call the airline so they don’t cancel your return flight.

6. When you accidentally break a lamp in a hotel room, the hotel replaces it and they don’t charge you.

This was a first for me. I knocked a lamp off the table in my hotel room. The lightbulb shattered, and the fish tail statue on the fancy lamp broke in two.

Well, that’s embarrassing.

It’s especially embarrassing if, say, you sheepishly decide to prop up the broken fish tail statue on the lamp so that it looks “normal,” and hope the cleaning staff won’t notice.

It’s even more embarrassing if you decide to visit Walgreens to buy some Crazy Glue to “fix” the lamp, then get back to your room and discover that the hotel has already replaced it. Thankfully, the hotel didn’t charge me for that (’cause, you know, I’m gonna need that extra money to pay for those three plane tickets).

Lesson learned: when you break a lamp, the hotel finds out anyway and replaces it. No questions asked, no extra charges given. At least at the Monterey Marriott. Your mileage may vary. Probably a good thing to just report it to the front desk.

Do you have any weird or useful travel tips you’ve picked up along the way? Share them in the comments!

Just a Test

Photo on 5-23-13 at 12.46 PM

No real content here – just a test! Apparently, the email version of my feed has been acting up. So, I’m testing it out, making sure everything is working!

Can you do me a favor? If you read my blog via email, can a couple of you visit this blog post and leave a comment, letting me know everything’s working ok? I’d appreciate it!

I also appreciate all you readers! You guys are truly awesome. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

I Was Hacked!

On Wednesday night, I was hacked.

OK, more appropriately, I received a weird text message with a web link, and I apparently clicked that link, not really thinking about it.

And that somehow opened the door to my gmail account, which then started sending out hundreds of emails to all my contacts.

Well that’s embarrassing.

What did I do? Well, first, I received a few quick tweets and texts, saying “oh oh, I think you’ve been hacked!” (thanks guys for being so fast!). Then I wasted no time in accessing my email account and changing my password. Then deleting all those emails, answering a bunch of emails (i.e., “yes, I was hacked. Don’t click that link. Sorry!”), etc.

Blake over at LISHost (my web hosted) even shut down my website for a few minutes once he saw that I had been hacked – Blake and LISHost is awesome, as always!

Moral of the story?

  • Don’t click weird text message links :-)
  • Or – pay attention. I wasn’t.
  • Don’t click those “what were you doing in this video” messages that you probably get in Twitter.
  • If you get a wierd email from me or from someone else with a web link in it, don’t click it!

On my phone, I also set up Google Authenticator. It’s an app from Google that works with Google’s 2-step verification, and provides an additional layer of security when signing in. And prevents stuff like what I did last night.

Because, well, you know … it happened to me, it can happen to you, too.

Finding Yourself on Google… when you’re a Kid

A couple days ago, one of my children showed the rest of the family a funny Facebook meme/game being passed around. Here are the rules:

  1. Open Google
  2. Search your first name
  3. Take the first picture that comes up
  4. Upload it to Facebook
  5. That’s you in 10 years

The rest of us thought it’d be funny to try, so we did. And yes, my family tends to gather around the computer to watch a funny Youtube video, look at a silly website, etc. Anyway, here are the results my family got while playing this game:

  • My son found a normal-looking, slightly-pudgy, balding middle-aged man (I think he said “aww, man!” when that photo came up).
  • My wife found a young woman.
  • My oldest daughter found a female wrestler (she found that sorta odd).
  • Me? I got the naked statue of David, King of Israel (and a bit of ribbing from the family)
  • My youngest daughter, age 12? She found … herself. From one of my Flickr pics (I put her name in the photo description). She found that a little weird, and a little pleasing at the same time – she won the game!

A couple of observations:

  • Kids games these days … how funny that you can make a game out of a google search, huh?
  • Anyone catch what’s involved in playing this game? A Google image search (Image search wasn’t even mentioned, just assumed), downloading an image, then uploading it to Facebook, then posting all of that as a Facebook status update. There’s a good 2-3 skillsets there that some of us have actually taught in a formal setting in the last 15 years, reduced to the ease and throw-away-ness of a goofy game. Wow.
  • Copyright, anyone? Yes, it’s harmless fun. But still, it does involve randomly lifting and reposting photos of strangers into Facebook … without their permission. And it’s easy to do, too.
  • Privacy, anyone? My daughter found herself. In the results of that same search, you can also find a photo of my oldest daughter and a photo of a ballet production both my daughters danced in. Weird, huh?

I’m fine with finding photos of my kids online, and wasn’t too surprised at those results. I know how it works. But how about other people who put private moments online for, say, a grandparent to see? Or someone posting photos and information, and not really thinking of the connectivity that the web provides? That can REALLY freak some people out, and might feel a bit like “Google knows who you are.”

What to do? Teach your customers (and staff) the implications of posting online, whether that’s a blog, a photo-sharing site like Flickr, or even an all-in-one social network like Facebook.

If it’s online, people can find it. Period. Teach people how to set their privacy setting in social networks, and also teach them that once something’s online, it’s most likely available to EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.

And then, teach them how to deal with that. Fun, huh?

Update – check out Posting Photos of Your Kids on Facebook: The Realities by the ReadWriteWeb.