Marriott Fined $600,000 for Illegally Blocking Personal Wi-Fi

Most travelers know the importance of Wi-Fi and how crucial it is to complete your day to day business. Unfortunately, it turns out that certain businesses, including hotels, are not above taking advantage of their customers personal Wi-Fi to make even more of a profit for themselves.

It is common for travelers to purchase and use personal Wi-Fi hotspots that connect to the internet via cellphone towers. Depending on what rate you want to pay, some people even upgrade their wireless data plans to turn their smartphones into hotspots. This way people will be able to connect to the internet while on the move and can avoid hefty fees charged by businesses.

The FCC says that employees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, used technology to disable personal Wi-Fi networks established by attendees at its conference facilities. The hotel then charged guests anywhere from $250 to $1,000 per device for access to the hotel network.

In a statement, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said, “It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”

Marriott International has agreed to pay a $600,000 fine to resolve this Federal Communications Commission investigation. Along with the fine, Marriott will also file compliance and usage reports with the Bureau every three months for three years including information documenting any use of Internet access point containment features at any U.S. property that Marriott owns or manages.

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Using Your Cell Phone Abroad

With technology being so advanced, travelers know that their cell phones are more than just a device to make calls from. Your cell phone can be anything from a map to an airplane flight tracker, for basically just the cost of your monthly phone plan, but if you are not aware of the rules of using your phone while travelling then you can run into unexpected costs and trouble. Here are some tips to using a cell phone abroad the cheapest and most efficient ways:

  • Make sure to purchase an electrical adapter that will be compatible with the outlets in the country you are visiting. If you can’t charge your phone then you will not be using it for long.
  • Turn data roaming off! Your phone should automatically turn roaming off when you are travelling internationally, but it is also smart to double check. Most people are not aware, but if you are travelling globally, even you are not using your phone, your phone will still use data to do things like receive messages, update apps, and so much more. If you do not turn your data off, you will get a large amount of unexpected charges.
  • Use Wi-Fi. Always use Wi-Fi because it is free and it is available in many public places and hotels. To be safe, it is best to use a VPN (virtual private network). VPN’s protect your privacy and help prevent anyone from hacking into your phone because they basically create your own private network.
  • Download the iVox international calling application because it allows you to make international calls for cheap rates. When you use this app (with Wi-Fi) you will only be charged the low rate per minute; you will not have to worry about any unexpected charges on your monthly phone bill. This app will allow you to stay in touch with people back home as well as the people and places that you are visiting.
  • Write down important phone numbers and keep it somewhere safe. It is handy to have your it on you, but in the unfortunate event of losing or breaking your cell phone, it is always a relief to have the phone numbers you need written down somewhere you can access them.

These may seem like little tips, but if you take them into consideration you will avoid a lot of frustration and surprising fees.

Posted in comfi, gadgets, Global, iVox, Money saving, Smartphones, Tips, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fall Food Festivals Around the World

With the transition of seasons from summer to autumn, there are many things to look forward to, depending on where you live, such as: the beautiful changing colors of leaves, comfortable weather that is not too hot an not too cold, and the beginning of the holiday season. Thankfully, no matter where you are, fall also marks the busy season for food festivals. Here is a list of five highly regarded food festivals from around the world:
1)  Galway, Ireland- Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. This year marks the 60th anniversary of this food festival that will be held September 25th-28th. This is the longest running oyster festival and includes talks and tastings in some of Galway’s best restaurants, oyster shucking championships, a Mardi Gras style Gala Event, family activities, live music, cooking demonstrations, and more.
2) London, England- London Restaurant Festival. Taking place October 8th-27th, this festival’s aim is to support London’s restaurant scene by letting people try as many restaurants as possible through a series of fun and delicious events. Each day, festival goers will be taken on a road trip through London to three different locations (including exclusive hotels and restaurants) where they will eat a starter, a main course and a dessert.
3) Alba, Italy- White Truffle Festival. Occurring October 11th- November 16th, this festival includes a white truffle market, cooking workshops, a donkey race, concerts, wine pairings, and an invite-only truffle world auction. Truffles are one of the top culinary dishes in Italy during the fall, so if you wold like to go, but cannot attend this festival, do not get too upset as there are many other white truffle festivals that take place throughout Italy.
4) Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, Australia- Good Food Month. Taking place throughout these Australian cities in October and November, there will be a showcase of the regions best restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as classes, talks hosted by special guests and various events and special offers.
5) Napa Valley, California- Flavor! Napa Valley. This festival will be held November 19th- 23rd and includes wine and food tastings, meals, demonstrations, seminars and hands on events. You can also feel good about attending this festival because net proceeds will support programs and scholarships at The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in St. Helena, CA.
If you are a self-claimed foodie, or you just enjoy a good meal, you should definitely try to make it to one of these food festivals.
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Avoiding Jet Lag

If you are travelling over different time zones, it can take your body up to one full week to adjust. This adjustment period often leaves you dealing with insomnia, lack of concentration, hunger or lack of appetite, and an overall sense of grogginess. This is most commonly known as jet lag and it can make your trip a lot harder to get through than you anticipated. Here are six tips to help you from falling into the jet lag trap:
 
Before your trip, try to move your bed time to adjust to where you will be travelling. Gradually change your sleep patterns about four days before your departure. If you are headed east, try to go to bed one hour earlier each night. If you are headed west, try going to sleep one one hour later. This will lessen the shock of the new time zone and will be easier for your body to adjust.
 
On the flight, avoid alcohol. The cabin air dehydrates passengers and the high altitude of the plan can quicken the effects alcohol has on your body. Drinking alcohol will dehydrate you and will worsen your jet lag.
 
Drink a lot of water. As stated above, air plane rides can be dehydrating. Being hydrated will help combat jet lag.
 
If you are planning on arriving to your destination in the morning, try to get some sleep on the plane ride. If you find sleeping difficult, use noise-cancelling headphones or a sleep mask.
 
If you absolutely must nap when you arrive at your destination, nap for no more than 20 minutes. Also, try to stay up until at least 9pm to get your body adjusted to the new time zone.
 
When you arrive at your destination, go for a walk and explore the city. Staying indoors worsens jet lag. Exercise and sun light are  known to be a natural stimulants for the human body so you will feel refreshed and invigorated.
 
If you follow these tips, your body’s adjustment period to the new time zone will be shortened and it should be an easy transition. By avoiding jet lag you will be able to make the most of your limited time while travelling.
Posted in comfi, Global, Health, Tips, Travel | 3 Comments

Hotels In France Encouraging You To Pay What You Want

If you could stay at a three to four star hotel in France and choose how much you pay for it depending on how much you felt the hotel deserved, would you do it? Of course you would! Luckily for you, from July 21 until August 10, 2014 you have the chance to partake in this unusual promotion.

Aldric Duval came up with this idea to promote his hotel, Tour d’Auvergne. The typical rate to stay at his hotel is usually around $200 per night. Duval thought this would be a good promotion because it would attract customers, but it would also give the hotel feedback on how well they are doing to keep their clients happy (as long as guests pay fairly). Guests would be asked to pay what they want based on their impressions of the hotel, room, and service.

Fortunately for travellers, this promotion has caught the attention from other hotels in France. Right now, four other hotels have decided to offer this special deal: Plaza Opera Hotel, Villa Opera Lamartine, Villa Boheme, and the French Grand Hotel. These hotels are all in Paris, but are located in a variety of different neighborhoods. There will also be more hotels who will be offering similar deals like this in the winter.

Each hotel will has only set aside two or three rooms for this pay-what-you-want rate, but they are all offering it until August 10, 2014. If you are intrigued and want to reserve a room, you must book through the website: http://www.payezcequevousvoulez.net

An opportunity like this does not come along often, so I suggest that you try to book a room if you will be in France. If you do get a room with this deal, keep in mind that if you do pay fairly and this promotion is a success, more hotels might be encouraged to do this.

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Useful Travel Gadgets

Travelling is all about seeing new places and having enjoyable experiences, but there is no doubt about it: you will have a better trip if you pack well and are prepared for whatever new experiences you may encounter. Technology has become so advanced that it would be a waste not to use it to our advantage, which is why I would like to bring five different products to your attention:

Mophie Space Pack- This is the worlds first battery case with built in storage for the iPhone 5/5s. This handy case doubles the battery life of your phone and doubles the data storage of up to 64GB of additional storage. There is also an app that you can use with the Space Pack that lets you manage and organize what is in the pack’s storage and even share files. While using this app, you can store, organize, or transport any type of file directly from your computer.

SteriPEN Ultra- In under one minute this device eliminates over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that cause water-borne illness. The SteriPEN Ultra is simple to use, you just press a button, submerge the UV lamp in water and wait for the lamp to go off; when it’s done a smile flashes at you from the screen and then it is safe to drink the water. The battery life will last sterilizing up to 50 liters of water and you can recharge it using a computer, outlet, or portable solar panel. The UV lamp will last up to 8,000 one liter treatments. This device works so well it received the Water Quality Association’s Gold Seal, certifying its effectiveness.

Compact Cube Universal Travel Adaptor- This small cube has a blade adaptor that allows you to adapt the plug blades of any device to that of the local power wall socket. The face of the adaptor has two and three bladed power plugs from the US, UK, EU, Australia, and China. The other end has four sets of plug blades that correspond to the same plug design. This cube is rated for 8 amps and can handle 830 watts of power (at 110VAC) or 1750 watts (at 230 VAC). This is compact and eliminates the need to buy a bunch of different adaptors.

Innergie PocketCell Duo- This compact gadget lets you charge 2 devices at once without an electrical outlet. There are duo USB power ports that allow you to charge tablets, smart phones, mp3 players, portable game consoles, GPS, and more. Another important aspect about this device is that you will not have to worry about unstable voltage when you are charging because the smart charge feature detects the type of device the PotcketCell is connected to and delivers the correct amount of power.

Trackdot Luggage- This is a very handy gadget if you are using an air plane while travelling. You just need to pack this little device into your suitcase and it will constantly monitor the cellular network to determine its location. If you are stopping in multiple cities and catching connecting flights, there is an app that you can use that can track where your luggage is. Depending on what you pick, you will receive either a text message or e-mail confirming that your luggage has arrived with you.

These gadgets are all so small that you will not feel a difference when lugging around your luggage, but they are so convenient that they will make a huge difference during your daily travels.

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5 Money Saving Tips For Your Next Cruise

Cruises can be one of the best valued vacations for you if you plan ahead and use certain strategies to avoid unnecessary costs. From booking your cruise, up until the time you arrive on your ship, you can take steps to make your vacation cheaper than expected while having just as much fun.

1. This is an obvious one, but shop around online to compare prices. Make sure you do your research and read the fine print. With things like cruise lines websites, social media websites, and special deal websites, there will be many options to choose from and one of them is bound to fit your budget.

2. Book your cruise during “wave season” (January through March). These three months often have the most cruise sales because the cruise lines are looking to plan ahead and book up their ships for the year. This is the time of year when the cruise lines are competing with each other to appeal more to customers.

3. Explore ports on your own. Shore excursions can be very pricey depending on what they have planned. Save money by doing some research and exploring the port on your own. Not only will you spend less money, but you will also have more time to do more things because you won’t be part of a big group.

4. Unplug and disconnect from the internet while you’re away. It’s nice to get away from the demands of always being connected to the world. Also, internet access and Wi-Fi are often charged at extremely high rates while on board. You should look into this information so you know if and what you will be charged. If the rate is high and you are someone who needs the internet, I suggest you wait until you are on your shore excursion before going online.

5. If you are looking for more than a one time trip, I suggest you stick with the same cruise line. Cruise lines reward their customers who continue to use their services. When you book more trips with the same company, you will definitely be made aware of more discounts and promotions that other first-time customers will not see. These rewards could effect your upfront rate, but they could also be perks such as special dinners and other upgrades.

If you take these tips into consideration while booking and while on your trip, then you will be able to keep to a strict budget while having a fun trip at sea.

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