If you’re traveling this weekend, here are a few last minute tips to help you and your family travel smart and safe so you can focus on the holiday.

  • Is your child flying alone? Then read this for lots of tips you’ll want to know.
  • If you are checking your bag and traveling with someone else, put some of your clothes in their bag and vice versa. That way, if one bag is delayed or lost, you each have some clothes.
  • Place your itinerary in your checked bag, along with your name and address. Luggage tags on the outside of the bag, especially those flimsy paper tags you may grab from the airline’s check-in counter at the last minute, may come off of the bag.
  • Speaking of checked bags, always check this before you say goodbye to your bag at the check-in counter.
  • If you’ll be driving, traffic may be crazy with so many travelers on the roads. Here are some apps you may want to download before you go that will help show you where the heaviest traffic is, where the speed traps are and more: Apps for Your Next Road Trip.
  • Leaving your car in an airport parking garage? Take a photo of the location you’re leaving the car (which floor and which aisle) so you can easily find your car when you return home.
  • Come home with all of your possessions that you left with. Read these stories of Lost and Found. We don’t need any more “lost” stories!
  • Most stores will be closed on Sunday so pick up anything you need before then.

Wishing you safe and enjoyable travels!

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Listen in to WGN Radio’s Nick Digilio as he and I gab about my first flight, what’s changed over my 28 years of travel, my favorite destinations, and more. WGN Radio is based in Chicago, where my business travels first started many years ago. This travel talk may just offer you and/or your family some great tips to use in these last few days of spring break or in any of your future travels.

Sharing of your travel tips or Chicago love is welcome in the comments below!

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Here are several contests that offer travel winnings. Good luck!

Win a Trip to the British Virgin Islands

BudgetTravel.com is giving you a chance to win a trip to the British Virgin Islands. A grand prize winner will receive roundtrip airfare for two, 6 nights at the Long Bay Beach Club in an Ocean-view room, and their breakfast and dinners taken care of.

Contest ends May 18th.

Luxury Spa Trip to Palm Springs

InStyle wants to send you on a luxurious spa getaway to Palm Springs. Runners up receive $200 Bluefly gift-cards, third place winners get a year subscription and some deluxe beauty samples, but the grand prize includes 2 nights in Hyatt Regency Indian Wells’ penthouse, roundtrip airfare for two, and spa and dinner gift certificates.

Contest ends June 13th.

Hilton Ultimate Weekender Sweepstakes

Hilton is giving away a lot of prizes – one every week for the rest of 2014! Most prizes include 2 free nights, $200 Hilton HHonors Giftcard, and 200,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles, so keep checking back and entering every week for your chance to win.

Contest ends January 2nd. Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.


Air New Zealand’s new 787-9 unveiled

Air New Zealand showed off their new Dreamliner this week with one beauty of a paint job. The all black livery with the distinct NZ Fern will roll out later this year. If you’d like to hop on board, the plane will be operating to Tokyo and Shanghai from Aukland in October.

These plastic pipes filled with warm water help Airbus test passenger comfort on the A350

Airbus recently showed off the extensive testing going in to their new A350s. See how these pipes simulate hours in flight, and take a look at the new aircraft’s seating layout, in this photo gallery. And if you’d like to see the cabin without all of the testing apparatus, check out this USA Today tour.

American Airlines ties frequent-flier plans to time of travel

If the changes to American Airlines’ FF program had you a little confused this week, you’re not alone. Some changes looked great, some not so great, and some had us shaking our head. This article lays out the changes ahead for your next AA flight.

America’s Meanest Airlines 2014

Meanest airlines, or airlines with the most complaints? The 2014 Air Quality Rankings were released this week, taking in to account customer complaints, on-time arrival percentage, lost bags, bumped passengers, and more. Can you guess who ranked as the “meanest” U.S. based airline? (Hint: It rhymes with Read More…

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Here are several contests that offer travel winnings. Good luck!


Garrett Popcorn Sweepstakes

Do you have a favorite travel food, as in some great grub you just can’t find at home? Mine is Garrett’s Popcorn, so we’ve teamed up to give away a 2 gallon Garrett Signature tin of their world famous Chicago Mix.

Contest ends April 11.

Luxurious Trip to the Philippines

The Travel Channel is giving away a luxurious trip for two the the Philippines. The Grand Prize winner will receive two round trip coach tickets to Manila, 7 days/6 nights hotel accommodations, spa treatments, scuba trips, and more.

Contest ends April 30. Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

Supreme Court sides with airlines in frequent-flier fight

Can an airline kick you out of their frequent flier program for complaining too much? The Supreme Court backed Northwest Airlines (now a part of Delta) when they revoked S. Binyomin Ginsberg’s status for what they say was abuse of the program. Ginsberg’s attorneys say this ruling will hurt consumers.

Gun arrests rare at many airports – but OIA is an exception

Some airports arrest you on the spot if you try to go through security with a firearm – and some will let you walk away. The Orlando Sentinel takes a look at inconsistencies with firearm policy in different states and at different airports. (Side note: It’s MCO or Orlando International Airport – not OIA)

Costs of securing airports far outweigh the benefits: study

In a study that is sure to make some waves, Mark Stuart and John Mueller broke down the airport security costs versus the costs of an airline attack and found we are spending too much. According to them, airline attacks would have to increase 10 to 20 fold before the damage they caused equaled the amount we spend on securing air travel. Read More…

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Do you have a favorite travel food? A dish or snack that has no equivalent back home? I certainly do, and I’d like to share it with you with a giveaway!

Traveling through Chicago’s O’Hare, you may have noticed a long line of people buying popcorn in Terminal B. But they’re not just buying any popcorn – they’re in line for Garrett Popcorn – the world’s best, in my humble opinion.

The Chicago Mix” (half CaramelCrisp®, half CheeseCorn™) is my all-time favorite. I don’t dare fly through the United terminal at ORD without bringing a bag home for everyone in my family.

Garrett Popcorn used to only be available in Chicago. On weekends when I was home in-between my business travels, I would take the El downtown to State Street with my two kids, buy a big bag of Chicago Mix and walk around downtown, all of us with sticky yellow fingers. Then we’d take the train up to O’Hare and watch the planes take off. Garrett Popcorn has been part of my travel for a lot of years!

Garrett Popcorn can now be found the world over and we’d like to share a can with you! Visit our Sweepstakes page to enter for a chance to win a 2 gallon Garrett Signature Blue tin full of that Chicago Mix I was telling you about.

If you’ve ever had Garrett Popcorn, you know what a great prize this is! And if you’ve never had the Garrett experience, now’s your opportunity to win a can of my favorite popcorn.

The giveaway ends at midnight EST on April 11, 2014. Enter to win today!

Posted by Carol Margolis | 3 Comments

Loews_Hotel_logoMost travelers have a love/hate relationship with a hotel’s minibar. I’m drawn to the convenience of grabbing a small, single serving of wine at the end of the night if it’s there, but the prices help me steer clear. I always appreciate a minibar that is included in the price of the room, though so far I have only seen that at some all-inclusives when I’m on vacation. Loews Regency is looking to change that with their Milk The Minibar offer.

For an extra $30 per night, the New York hotel is letting you raid the mini bar (within reason). You will have access to all of the usual minibar snacks, wine, and spirits, but there are some conditions; there is a two night minimum, it’s only valid Thursday thru Sunday nights, the minibar is not replenished throughout your stay, and there is a $550 ceiling.

So if you’re having a New York weekend and want to raid the minibar while you’re there, check here for availability. The offer is good until August 31, 2014.

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Business travels are taking me to Veracruz, Mexico this week with anticipated future trips as well. There are no warnings to defer non-essential travel, though it isn’t the safest place to travel in Mexico either per this recent Mexico Travel Warning. Before I travel internationally, and especially to a place where safety may be a concern, I register my trip with the U.S. Department of State. If a natural or criminal disaster occurs, there is someone else who knows where I am other than my spouse and the company who is sending me abroad.

Before you head off on your next international travels (business or vacation), register your trip with the State Department.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.

STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

STEP lets you subscribe to the Embassy or Consulate’s email list in order to receive specific notifications about events, security alerts, safety issues or other information for the specific area you are traveling during the dates you specify.

I wish you all safe travels, but if something were to happen while abroad, the State Department will have an easier time reaching you if you are registered. So be safe out there, and register your next international trip!

Posted by Carol Margolis | 4 Comments

Here are several contests that offer travel winnings. Good luck!

Win a Napa Getaway for Two

If a getaway to California’s Napa Valley interests you, consider entering Food52 and Luxury Link’s giveaway. Grand prize includes 2 nights at Bordessono in a spa suite, dinner for two at Lucy with a wine pairing, and a $1,500 AmEx gift card to cover airfare and transportation.

Contest ends March 23.

Hawaiian Adventure Getaway

InsideHook, Men’s Health, Shermans Travel, and Hipmunk have gotten together to send a lucky winner to Maui. You and a friend could win roundtrip airfare, 4 nights at the Andaz Maui, zipline tours, surfing lessons, and more.

Contest ends April 15. Read More…

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Here are some articles and links from around the travel world that came across my desk this week. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments, post them on our Facebook page or send them my way on Twitter.

The road to happy: New travel study reveals 4 ways to boost happiness

What make’s a great vacation? A new study tries to narrow down what aspects of a trip bring the most joy, and they found 4 common traits. If you minimize stress, plan ahead, make a local connection, and go far from home, they say it leads to the happiest of vacations.

Airbnb Is in Advanced Talks to Raise Funds at a $10 Billion Valuation

Airbnb is looking to raise a little bit of money … just $10 million. If they do reach their goal, it would make them one of the world’s largest startups, and make them more valuable than Wyndham and Hyatt.

Chicago airports ranked at bottom for arrivals, departures

Ouch! My hometown of Chicagoland was no place to be this winter for traveling through their airports. Read More…

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