Category: Travel

“The Department of Homeland Security plans to ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast. The announcement is expected Thursday.” states an article published by The Daily Beast on May 10th. (more…)

Check out this time-lapse video of an American Airlines flight from Santa Ana, CA to Phoenix, AZ made by Stocki Exchange CEO, John Stocki!

Related Article: VIDEO Review of American Airlines Admirals Club in PHX airport.

During a non-typical Monday-night trip in March, I headed off to film a new hotel feature segment for my new TV show, Great Escapes, where I visited a city within a city. A residential and resort community located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Bay Harbor is the epitome of Northern Michigan lakeside-side luxury retreat. The development stretches along five miles of shoreline and includes an equestrian, yacht, and golf club as well as being scattered with retail shops, restaurants, private condos and homes, and my destination, the Inn at Bay Harbor(more…)

Video Review of American Airlines Admirals Club Lounges in Phoenix, AZ

It’s taken me almost 15 years to fly another domestic airline other than Delta. Being from Michigan and flying mainly to east coast destinations, I started flying Northwest Airlines, which was acquired by Delta in 2008. When I moved overseas in 2007, Delta was already was my preferred airline as I had already racked up frequent flyer miles and they were almost a winner in the ticket price battle. With Delta’s announcement in February 2011 that SkyMiles never expire I had already accrued a few hundred thousand miles with most of my travel being long-haul international routes.

I recently booked a last-minute trip to Long Beach, CA and my options flying out my home airport of Traverse City, MI (TVC) were American, Delta, or United. This time American won the price battle and came in around $200 USD less than the competition. My total round-trip flight from TVC – SNA was $571.70 USD. Instead of flying in LAX, I found a much cheaper rate flying into John Wayne Intl. Airport (SNA), which was closer to my hotel too. I didn’t need any other reason to avoid the LAX craziness.

During my return flight, I had a 4-hour layover in Phoenix, AZ (PHX) and I thought that I would see how the American Airlines Admirals Club® (AC) airport lounge compared to the Delta Sky Club®, which I regularly visit during my travels.

Here’s what I experienced while visiting two of the Admirals Club (AC) locations inside PHX airport on Monday, March 20 from 11:30 am – 3:30 pm MST.

POSITIVES

  • Warm and friendly greeting from both lounge entrance staff.
  • Larger meals available for purchase ranging from $8-13 USD. (See menu below)
  • Cleanliness and presentation of snack and drink area.

NEGATIVES

  • AC between A19 – A21
    • Small lounge and was overcrowded when I entered at 11:30am MST.
    • Very slow WiFi speed (~8/mbps ↓ download)
    • Soft drinks must come from the bar.
  • Both AC Lounges
    • No self-service bar. All alcoholic drinks, both complimentary and paid, must come from the staffed bar.
    • Complimentary alcohol includes house spirits ONLY, domestic beers from Anheuser-Busch/Miller Coors, and one Chardonnay/Merlot wine from Flat Rock. Additional options available for purchase. Smirnoff $8/Absolut $10/Grey Goose $12, Premium Domestic/Craft Beer $7 and Imports $8, and Specialty Cocktails range from $10-12. (See menu below)
    • Food lacked seasoning.

Comparison to Delta Sky Lounge

Airline American Delta
Day Pass Cost $59* $59**
Yearly Membership $450-550 $495-745
Global Clubs & Partner Lounges 90 139
  • Delta offers complimentary premium spirits (e.g. Stoli, Bombay, Bacardi, Jack Daniels, Cutty Sark, Bailey’s), local craft beers, and many have self-service bars.
    • Premium Domestic & Import Beers are only $3 and Specialty and Seasonal Cocktails are $8.
  • In my personal opinion, the Delta Sky Club offers a larger variety of hot & cold snacks.
  • * Free and/or discounted ($29) daily lounge access with one of the Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards
  • ** Free lounge access for cardholders and guests with the AAdvantage Executive World Elite Credit Card

While day pass prices for both lounges are the same, their yearly passes range with Delta’s biggest factor increasing the price being the ability to bring additional guests into the lounge and American’s price ranges based on what status you are in their AAdvantage® loyalty program.

According to the American Airlines website, they’re currently renovating many Admirals Club lounges and are launching in the spring of 2017 their new larger Flagship® Lounges for qualifying First and Business Class customers.

CONCLUSION – 

While the experience wasn’t negative or bad, in comparison to the competition, the AC in PHX falls behind in a few areas. Both Delta & American have the same rate for day passes and are very similar in price vs. benefits for yearly memberships. The Admirals Club in PHX between gate A19 and A21 is small and can easily get overcrowded. Their WiFi speed was also much slower than expected for such a small lounge. When compared to Delta Sky Club that offers a self-serve bar with premium alcohol selections and a larger variety of snacks, the AC in PHX can’t compete.

Would I buy another day pass if traveling through PHX on American? No. The airport offers free WiFi through Boingo Wireless and plenty of restaurants to grab a quick meal. If you’re a cocktail enthusiast and have graduated from drinking house booze, you’re going to be paying the same price at the Admirals Club as you would at an airport bar. Just passing through and considering treating yourself to a day pass to the lounge? Skip it and belly up to one of the airport bars to save some money. If you’re already an Admirals Club member traveling through PHX, make sure you head to the lounge above Gate A7 and 9 and skip the smaller one.

Did you have a different experience or something else to share about airport lounges? Leave a comment below and I promise I will respond!


American Airlines Admiral Club 1
Vodka & Tonic
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Originally published by Condé Nast Traveler, check out this video showing the evolution of 100 Years of Flight Attendant Uniforms.
 (more…)

With the holidays upon us, I wanted to put together a gift guide meant for the traveler in your life. I’ve covered items that will appeal to everyone from businessmen flying coast to coast to extreme sports addicts looking for their next thrill.

Airline Lounge Membership

Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International

Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International via Delta.com

Frequent travelers appreciate the way little perks add up better than most. There is no better way to make those perks a year-round reality than by buying them a lounge membership to their airline of choice. Delta Sky Club, American Admirals Club and the United Club are the most popular and run between $450-$550 annually for a single membership. Learn a bit more about what they include here.

Away Travel Luggage

Away Carry On Luggage Set

Away Carry On Luggage Set via AwayTravel.com

Direct-to-consumer brand, Away Travel, has changed the luggage game. Top notch features like unbreakable shells, interior compartments, and built-in USB chargers make their products as rugged and convenient as anything on the market. Even the most discerning of travel enthusiasts would love to have one of these!
They have a refer-a-friend program that gives each of us a $20 credit after you make your first purchase. 
Buy em’ here.

Bose QC35 or Sennheiser PXC 550

Bose QC35

Bose QC35 via Bose.com

Noise-cancelling headphones are a no brainer for the frequent traveler. You can’t go wrong picking up the Bose QC35 or Sennheiser PXC 550. Both options are wireless, offering high-fidelity sound and a stylish look. Your only regret will be that you didn’t pick up a pair for yourself! Buy Bose or Buy Sennheiser.

LugLoc

LugLoc and App

LugLoc and App via LugLoc.com

There are few feelings worse than arriving at your destination only to find out your luggage is lost or delayed. LugLoc is a geo-tracking device meant to ease that discomfort. Just slip the device into your bag and track it anywhere in the world using a downloadable smartphone app. Now if we could only get airlines to be a bit better about causing this problem in the first place. Buy a LugLoc.

Ostrich Pillow

Ostrich Pillow

Ostrich Pillow via OstrichPillow.com

It may look ridiculous, but the Ostrich Pillow is amazingly comfortable. If this look isn’t for you, Ostrich has also created the Ostrich Pillow Light and Ostrich Pillow Mini, two options that look a little more “normal.” Regardless of which option you pick up, I guarantee it will help with the unavoidable sore neck we’ve all had to deal with after sleeping on a plane or train. Buy an Ostrich Pillow.

Olloclip

iPhone 7 Olloclip

iPhone 7 Olloclip via Olloclip.com

An Olloclip is the ideal gift for would-be photographers. High-quality lenses, specially designed to fit specific Apple and Samsung devices, make it easy to improve the photos you can squeeze out of your phone or tablet. Wide-angle, macro and telephoto lenses can all be easily slipped into a pocket so that travelers on the go don’t have to worry about lugging around a big DSLR. Buy an Olloclip.

Shinola Detroit Baggage

Shinola Womens Zip Satchel

Shinola Womens Zip Satchel via Shinola.com

Shinola brings Detroit-made leather goods to you at an affordable price. Stylish, high-quality work bags that will last a lifetime are truly the gift that keeps on giving. For men, I recommend the Zip Top Messenger. For women, the Zip Satchel. With Shinola, you really can’t go wrong! Buy a Woman’s Bag or Buy a Men’s Bag.

The AquaVault or The Beach Vault

The AquaVault

The AquaVault via TheAquaVault.com

Travel doesn’t always have to be about style and comfort. Sometimes, it’s just about having worry-free fun. That’s where the Aqua Vault and Beach Vault come into play. The Aqua Vault locks onto any beach chair, table or railing and protects your belongings. The Beach Vault easily burrows in the sand underneath your beach towel to provide a safely hidden storage space. Buy an Aqua Vault or Beach Vault.

Mophie Battery Backup

Mophie Juice Pack Air

Mophie Juice Pack Air via Mophie.com

How do you order an Uber with a dead mobile device? You don’t, which is exactly why I turn to Mophie for my battery backup needs. Their battery cases are a great way to ensure your phone always has an extra charge and their Powerstation universal batteries are great for tablets and other USB devices. Buy a Mophie Battery Backup.

ZeroGrid Packing Cubes

ZeroGrid Compression Packing Cubes

ZeroGrid Compression Packing Cubes via ZeroGrid.com

Packing tools may not be as glamorous as the Away Travel luggage I mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly useful. Zero Grid’s Packlite Compression Packing Cubes make it easy for even the most unorganized traveler to pack quickly. They’re designed to fit perfectly into standard size luggage, extremely light and come with a lifetime guarantee. Buy Compression Packing Cubes.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite via Amazon.com

Even though the average consumer already has a laptop, tablet and smartphone adding a Kindle Paperwhite to the mix is 100% worth it. Lightweight, glare-free and easy on eye-strain, the Paperwhite is a dedicated eReader with a battery that lasts for weeks. Meaning you can leave it in your bag and pick back up right where you left off. Buy an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.

Action Camera/ Drone

DJI Mavic

DJI Mavic via DJI.com

If the traveler in your life is like me, they want to capitalize on opportunities to document their adventures. When it comes to rugged, action-sports cameras, nothing beats a GoPro. For those who are always looking to take it to the next level, consider the DJI Mavic or Hover Camera Passport drone. The Mavic is ideal for outdoor adventures and the Passport is better for treks in the city. Both are guaranteed not to disappoint. Buy a GoPro, DJI Mavic, or Hover Camera Passport.

If there are any must-have gifts for travelers you feel I should have included on the list, don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to hear what gadgets and gizmos are getting you through your trips. Email me at John@StockiExchange.com or contact me through my website here.

Let’s face it, travel during the holidays can make you want to yank your hair out. I would be lying if I said I’ve never felt that way. But, over the years I’ve accumulated a few tips and tricks that have made a significant change in how stressful I find holiday travel. Here they are in all of their shining, keep-your-fingers-crossed-for-an-upgrade-and-an-aisle-seat, glory!

Security Tips

  • Imagine skipping the majority of airport security, keeping your shoes and belt on, and leaving your laptop in your bag. These are a few of the perks of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. If you fly more than once a year the $100 Global Entry fee ($85 for TSA PreCheck) is totally worth the time, energy and sanity you’ll save.
  • Make sure you’re organized. It makes security a lot less of a hassle. I suggest putting your change, keys, belt, jewelry, and phone in your carry-on before getting in line. If you’ve got kids, look to see if there is a family lane available as well. For the latest and most up-to-date security information always check the TSA Travel Checklist before leaving for the airport.
  • Last but not least, if traveling internationally, keep a paper copy of your passport on you just in case you lose your actual passport. Being stranded without identification in a foreign country is about as scary (and stressful) as it gets. This will help if you need to get into a US embassy when abroad.

Banking

  • This goes without saying, but make sure you put a travel notice on your credit/debt cards and make sure you have a bit of cash in the local currency. If you give your bank a few weeks notice, you can get some of the best exchange rates. Cash is king in the event that you run into an issue with your plastic.
  • Better yet, apply for an American Express charge card that comes with a host of travel perks and no foreign transaction fees. If you’re a fan of earning miles this is the card for you. If you prefer to earn points towards hotel stays, here’s the one with your name on it. These aren’t affiliate links, I’m just a big fan of the American Express experience.

Preparation

  • Pack for your trip a few days beforehand and assess whether or not you need it all the day of. Odds are, you can probably cut a few items you originally packed. I make it a rule to remove at least three things I had originally packed before departing.
  • Leave a bit of space in your bag as you’ll likely pick something or many things while on vacation as well. Nothing is more stressful than paying up to $200 at the gate because the tchotchkes you picked up put your luggage overweight.
  • If possible, fit everything in your carry on. Do you really need to bring 4 pairs of shoes for a 3 day trip?! No. You don’t have to worry about lost or delayed luggage if you don’t check anything. Land and you’re off to the races.

Start Your Vacation Early

Ground Transportation

  • If you use Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing service frequently, look up you arrival airport to see if they have a special area for ride-sharing services to pick up and drop off as many don’t allow them to operate in the same locations that traditional taxis can. Navigating through an unfamiliar airport can be a huge stressor and waste of time.
  • Call or email your hotel ahead of time to see if they offer a free shuttle to and from the airport. That information can save you a lot of anxiety. Even if they charge for the service, it may be well worth it and surprisingly similar to the price of taking a taxi.

Bonus: Tip Your Flight Attendants

  • Flight attendants have the ability to provide perks for travelers in the same way that hotel front desk agents do. Unfortunately, they tend to end up on the receiving end of many traveler’s frustrations. A little appreciation goes a long way. When you’re sitting in coach on a long flight, a $10 or $20 tip may help ensure that you get some special attention. If you play your cards right, you might be able to squeeze out a cocktail or two.

So there you have it. A few key things to remember if you’re looking to make your holiday travel as stress-free as possible. If you’re a frequent traveler and have any go-to tips or tricks, I would love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at John@StockiExchange.com or leave a comment below.


Entrepreneur and Hospitality Consultant, John Stocki, has been hired as a Travel Expert and Segment Producer for a new luxury hotel TV show, Great Escapes. Stocki will be traveling the globe visiting unique and luxurious hotels to be featured on the internationally distributed show scheduled to begin airing in Fall of 2017.

Great Escapes Show Brief

Great Escapes is a 30-minute 39-episode television series created and produced by Bellum Entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Bellum Entertainment is known for producing other award-winning shows that include Corrupt Crimes, Animals Unleashed, Justice Served: Murderous Affairs, Fix It & Finish It, and many others. Together with Bellum Entertainment’s Co-Executive Producer Chris Loud and Producer Morgan Burke-Beyers, who are both Michigan natives, John will be filming and producing the remaining episodes from remote locations around the world with final editing and production being completed in Los Angeles, CA.

Great Escapes has been acquired by Sky Vision, the international distribution division of SKY, and is being distributed domestically by Bellum’s dedicated sales team. The show will be broadcast to ~75% of major city markets throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States on multiple platforms. Agreements have already been accepted for the show to broadcast on Video On Demand services including Hulu, Amazon Video, and Roku starting in 2019. A conservative estimate of global viewership is at 2 million+ and the show will be broadcast internationally for over 10 years.

Great Escapes baumaniere les baux-de-provence france

Watch Sizzle Reel – Password: Bellum

Great Escapes Sky Lodge Adventure Suites

Watch the Pilot Episode #1 – Password: Bellum

John is ready to travel and expose some hotels and destinations throughout the world that are truly Great Escapes. Follow the development of the show and John’s travels via the Great Escapes Facebook PageYouTube Channel, and Website.

Hotels Features, Sponsorships, & Product Placement Opportunities

John’s company, Stocki Exchange, a hospitality consulting firm, has also been hired to lead and manage all Sponsorship and Product Placement opportunities for the show. Companies and/or products we’re interested in featuring include luxury or unique hotels/resorts, casinos, international airlines, luxury travel products (luggage, headphones, watches, etc…), online travel agents, tour companies, Country or State Tourism Organizations, Destination Management Companies (DMC), hospitality suppliers, and alcohol producers.

Are you or do you know someone who would be interested in receiving additional information regarding sponsorship/product placement opportunities? Send an email to john@stockiexchange.com and download a PDF show brief(Updated June 2, 2017)

About John

Born and educated in the United States, John Stocki launched his career on a global scale working in Australia, United Arab Emirates, China, and the US, as well as traveling and training in over 30 countries and 29 states throughout the US. His passion was developed in the hospitality industry where he worked with international luxury hotel brands in marketing, public relations, and eCommerce roles. He brings a straightforward approach, laced with direct personal experience, to his special and unique style which makes his company – Stocki Exchange – so distinctive.

In 2012, after returning to the US, John started the Stocki Exchange – A hospitality consulting firm for hotels & resorts, restaurants, breweries, and bars. He now acts as the company’s CEO and is also a successful Keynote Speaker for topics including travel, and hospitality sales & marketing. John is also a Consulting Partner with Mocinno International, a global hospitality management company with offices in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Palma, Dubai, London, Amsterdam, and Michigan.

He is a Contributor for The Huffington Post, Startup Grind, and Hostfully. During his travels for the filming of Great Escapes, John will be writing destination travel features, posting reviews of his experiences at hotels, as well as sharing his travels on all his social media accounts. Interested in having your brand or product included in a destination feature? Email John.

Be sure to Follow John’s travels via Social Media
Facebook: http://facebook.com/johnstocki
Twitter: http://twitter.com/j_stocki
Instagram: http://instagram.com/johnstocki
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnstocki13
Medium: http://medium.com/@johnstocki

Follow the Stocki Exchange:
Facebook: http://facebook.com/stockiexchange
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Website: http://stockiexchange.com


Have you noticed how those super low hotel room rates you see advertised never really seem to be what you actually pay? Taxes aside, one of the biggest contributors to this are resort fees. So much so, that The Washington Post says U.S. hotel guests paid an estimated $2.7 billion (yes, billion with a B) in resort fees in 2015!

What are Resort Fees? Where did they come from?

If you’re not a millennial, there’s a good chance you remember when resort fees didn’t exist. You probably remember being able to dispute them when they started popping up in the early to mid 90’s as well. Unfortunately, times have changed. These fees, which used to be added to your stay for the upkeep of luxury amenities at high-end resorts, are now found virtually everywhere.

Many of the perks that resort fees were designed to pay for at luxury properties such as beach clubs and tennis courts still exist. However, more and more hotels are tacking on resort fees as an easy way to generate additional revenue. During our research, many hotels said the resort fees provided for amenities such as faxing, in-room safes, local phone calls, beach and pool access, that were previously included in the room rate. In Las Vegas, for example, hotels use many of these reasons to justify fees as high as $32 a day at some properties.

Here’s a great example of one hotel advertising an extremely low rate, then tacking on a 42% resort fee.

Days Inn Las Vegas Reservation 1
At the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a $680 per night island property in Miami that charges a resort fee of $150 per night (plus tax), which comes out to 23.6% of the total room charge. The property doesn’t mention that fee anywhere on their website and when called, said it covered access to all of their facilities and a golf cart for guests to use while on the island. When pressed on it over the phone, they actually called back the next day and offered to waive the resort fee, offered me the Florida resident discount rate even though I live in Michigan, and the only stipulation was that my reservation would be non-cancellable. I guess it’s not mandatory after all…

Fisher Island Club 1

Fisher Island Club 2

Why Do Hotels Still Charge These Fees?

The reasons why many hotels still charge a resort fee are pretty obvious:

  • It’s legal…as long as they disclose the fees before you complete your reservation
  • It allows hotels to deceptively lower their advertised room rates then make up the revenue by tacking on resort fees later
  • Consumers continue to pay them without questioning what they’re getting in return for their money

Challenging the Status Quo

If a property really wanted to, they could offer a stay for $50 a night and charge a $100 resort fee as long as they disclose it prior to booking. Talk about a bait and switch! Cable and internet providers are the one of the only other folks out there charging their customers fees like this with minimal transparency. And, we all know how much everyone loves dealing with them. This deceptive practice has gotten so bad that the FTC is considering changing its current policy as many consumer advocate groups argue that it is unfair and deceptive.

Websites like ResortFeeChecker.com and ResortFees.com are gaining momentum because travelers are tired to being taken advantage of. In a recent study, roughly 1 in 10 travelers to Las Vegas actually changed where they planned to stay in order to avoid paying resort fees. In my opinion, hotels have three options if they want to see continued success as their guests become more discerning:

Option #1 – A La Carte Service Fees and Packages

If properties want to keep resort fees in place, they have to acknowledge that it takes unique and luxurious upgrades to justify them as well as a market willing to pay for them. If people don’t take advantage of those perks, the property should offer to waive the fees. A recent study confirmed consumer sentiment for this approach.

Option #2 – Roll the Resort Fee into the Room Rate

Hotels could drop the resort fee entirely and roll it into the room rate. Let the consumer know exactly what they’re paying for and allow them to make their own decision, with no hidden fees/charges. The same study referenced in Option #1, found that 67% of consumers preferred this type of bundled pricing. Truly savvy brands will utilize this as a marketing opportunity to explain higher room rates and differentiate themselves from competitors who still nickel and dime their customer base.

Option #3 – Do Nothing While Competitors Choose Options #1 & #2

Hoteliers that refuse to change will continue to benefit from unsuspecting, price-conscious consumers…for the short term. However, many hotels already see the changes in consumer spending habits and have updated their pricing model to mirror the options above. If this consumer behavior trend continues, businesses who are slow to respond to the change will likely see a decline in revenue until their pricing model better reflects consumer demands.

The Hard Truth

Quite frankly, hoteliers are going to need to work harder. Charging resort fees has been an easy revenue generator requiring little to no effort for too long. As consumers become more educated, brands that continue to utilize them will be risking their ability to build long-term brand loyalty, a key performance metric for the travel industry.

Sadly, unless the practice is deemed a form of deceptive advertising by the FTC, many hotels and resorts will likely stay the course as they are too tempted by the easy revenue. Even those who want to change may be too cash-flow sensitive, requiring the short-term revenue resort fees provide just to stay afloat. Additionally, properties in highly-competitive resort destinations like Las Vegas and Miami, where resort fees have been the norm for decades, will likely be the last to change as it will put them at a disadvantage price-wise in online search results. To survive, these hotels will likely continue to advertise low rates that undersell the market and focus on a volume-driven strategy, targeting the most price-conscious consumers.

Unfortunately for them, transparency is the currency businesses trade in today. The internet provides everyone with more options and information than they know what to do with. Consumers, even cost-conscious ones, are deciding they don’t want to do business with organizations who aren’t honest and upfront with them.

If you’re a consumer who has successfully challenged these charges or a hotelier who is considering changes to your fees, I would love to get in touch. Email me at John@StockiExchange.com or contact me online here.


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