Preferred Pride hotel program caters to LGBT travelers

preferred pride hotelsNearly 100 preferred hotel group members have joined together to create Preferred Pride, a network of independently owned and operated hotels that cater to the needs of the LGBT community. In addition to being “gay welcoming”, these hotels offer equal opportunity employment and are active in their efforts to support the LGBT community.

Certain requirements exist for hotels to be able to join Preferred Pride. Hotels must be either TAG Approved (Community Marketing’s Travel Alternative Group) or be a member of IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association).

The Preferred Pride program was created in order to bring together a diverse group of hotels from around the world who are committed to the LGBT community, as well as a way to learn more about what this community needs in order to have a more enjoyable travel experience.

New York on a budget: Your free day in New York

new york on a budgetVisitors to New York often think that to experience the culture of the city they will have to pay a fortune. To disprove that theory, here is an itinerary that will allow you to enjoy a free afternoon (well, you might have to pay $2.25 for the subway).

The walk begins in Rockefeller Center. Take the F, D, M, or B to to the 47th-50th St. Rockefeller Center stop, the N or the R to 49th St., the 1 to 50th St., or the 6 to 51st St. Begin your day by exploring the many shops, cafes, and studios in Rockefeller Center (tip: visit Rain to sample South African bath and body items and get free advice on how customize your perfect scrubs). Stroll through the Channel Gardens and Promenade and admire nature and art. There are also traces of art and history located around the entire Rockefeller Center, including oil paintings, stone statues, bronze sculptures, and more. Another fun free thing to do is to sit in on a live taping of the show. If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, you can try to get standby tickets when you are there. If it is winter, enjoy the feeling of Christmas in the air by watching ice skaters and characters in costume move around the giant lit-up Christmas tree that New York is so famous for.When you leave Rockefeller Center, begin walking down 5th towards 50th. Here, you will see the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Explore the many sections of the church, including the crypt, chapel, sanctuary, baptistery, and more with a free guided tour.

After St. Patrick’s, continue walking up 5th towards 52nd street and make a right. Walk for less than a minute and you will come to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Located at 11 East 52nd St., this free museum hosts art and exhibits of all different forms, including oil paintings, photography, video, multimedia, sculptures, and more. Most of the artists have some kind of connection to Austria, whether they live, work, or grew up there. From now until January 3, 2012, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is hosting their Beauty Contest exhibit, which uses different perspectives to convey and breakdown different concepts of beauty.

Get back on to 5th and continue walking uptown. Fifth Ave. is famous for its shopping, and while buying merchandise isn’t free, window shopping certainly is. The walk will allow you to peruse an array of shops, from the reasonably priced Forever 21, Hollister, and Abercrombie and Fitch, to upscale designer stores like Gucci, Fendi, and Prada. You will also pass the well-known Trump Tower.

If you would like to see some more of the religious structures in New York, you will pass both St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on your left.

central parkOnce you hit 59th you will be able to enter Central Park, which is basically a day trip of its own. If you would like to keep your day free of charge, you can walk the park either by yourself or with one of the free walking tours offered by the Central Park Conservancy. There are many different tour focuses, such as art, the castle, a memorial walk, and many more. If you are going to explore on your own, you can either purchase a map (remember, the park covers more than 800 acres) or just have a spontaneous adventure by choosing your route at random (you will come to many different forks in the road as you explore). Visit the many memorial statues erected around the park, take photographs of the various ponds, fountains, bridges, and plants, play Frisbee in Sheep Meadow or chess at the Chess & Checkers House, be entertained by live performers, visit Belvedere castle and much, much, more.

Hungry? Head over to Tavern on the Green to check out some of the local food trucks. Enjoy a delicious, filling meal for under $10. You can also check out Ball Field Cafe & Beer Garden to sample sangria, discounted buckets of beer on ice, and meals such as burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads for a reasonable price. Sheep Meadow Cafe will also allow you to full up for free, with meals for under $10.

Travel sizes and the 3-1-1 rule: new study suggests shift in consumer behavior

travel sizesThe TSA‘s 3-1-1 rule has been in place for only five years, but it may have forever changed travel behavior.

The rule limits passengers to one quart sized zippered bag and liquid or gel items of no more than 3.4 ounces in all carry-on luggage.

Prior to the 3-1-1 rule’s implementation, 18% of the respondents considered themselves to “not at all” purchase travel sizes prior to the 3-1-1 rule, 59% did “sometimes,” and 23% considered themselves regular users.

Slightly over 40% of the survey respondents currently use travel-sized products 41% one to four times per year, 34% use them five to eight times, 14% use them nine to 12 times and 11% use them more than once per month.

As might be expected, the “regular” users of travel-sized items reported little shift in behavior and the regular and occasional users reported upticks in usage.

What was of particular interest was that their usage was fairly evenly split amongst purchasing branded travel sized items, and transferring their existing large sizes into empty travel sized containers. One could surmise that there were different factors that went into the choice to convert existing large sizes into empty bottles:
* Expense of purchasing a new item when the larger bottle already existed.
* Environment concerns about the additional waste in packaging.
* Reaction to being “told what to do” by someone (e.g. the government).
* Favorite brand or product not existing in a travel size.
* Or any number of other factors.

Looking into the future, the respondents forecasted their future usage of travel sizes if and when the 3-1-1 rule is lifted.

The most interesting group was the group that did not use travel sizes at all prior to the 3-1-1 rule being put into place. Within this group, while only 50% said that they would no longer purchase travel sizes, a significant 29% said they would purchase fewer than what they were doing, and 15% said they would use the same amount or more of the travel sizes due to their convenience. Additionally, 7% said that they would use them for travel and for regular use as they are now “part of my life.”

Combined, this represents a change in habit for half of these prior “non-users.”

For the group that only sometimes used travel sizes prior to the 3-1-1 rule, the results showed that only 3% would no longer purchase travel sizes, 49% would purchase fewer, but 30% would use the same or more, and an additional 18% would use the same or more including both travel and non travel usage.

It was interesting to note that compared to airplane travel, nearly all of the other modes of transportation showed a more significant future usage of travel sizes, including every other method scoring stronger than airplane travel when it came to determining that travel sizes had become “part of my life.”

One of the most common complaint was that the respondents’ favorite brand did not come in a travel size.

Need to purchase a travel-sized item yourself? Our favorite retailers include Minimus.biz (the organization that conducted the survey) and 3floz.com.

New Travel Friendly Beauty Products

Apoc Neoshell Jacket from Westcomb

At the intersection of breath ability, waterproofing, and lightweight material lies the holy grail of outer wear. It’s the quest for that fabric that brought us Gore-Tex and Triple Point Ceramic and any number of branded fabric names.

Now there’s NeoShell by Polartec, a breathable waterproof fabric that claims to be “100% more breathable than the best waterproof breathable on the market in active conditions”. Westcomb, a Canadian outerwear company is using NeoShell for their not yet on the market Apoc jacket, and at first blush, it looks to be good stuff. Here’s a little more propaganda, directly from the NeoShell site:

Waterproof technology has remained about the same since the very first hard shell. Breathability is achieved through diffusion: moisture and heat create enough pressure that moisture vapor finally passes through the fabric.

Soft shells trade waterproofness for greater breathability by making use of convection: a constant exchange of air allows more moisture vapor to escape. Now, Polartec® NeoShell® delivers the best of both worlds.

I noticed the difference in weight right away — the Apoc is absolutely a few ounces lighter than my Goretex shell, I could feel it. The fabric is slightly softer, slightly smoother, it’s got a little bit more drape. The jacket folds up to very small; you can easily stuff it in your pack or suitcase.

There’s just one thing missing from this very nice jacket. I prefer two way zippers, that way you can open the jacket from the bottom, too. That’s all I’ve got for criticism — I like everything else, the feel of the fabric, the cut of the jacket, the sharp acid green color. Don’t want the green? You can get it in blue, gray, red, yellow, or black.

The rest of the Apoc jacket shows a really nice attention to detail. There are deep zippered pockets for your stuff. There’s a bicep pocket for your lift ticket or lip balm. There’s an inside pocket for your wallet and phone; it includes a pass-through for your headsets. All the seams are taped and lie flat. My favorite detail is that the collar is lined with a very light, fleecy material where it hits your face when it’s zipped all the way up.

Pair this jacket with a lightweight down sweater or shirt, and you are set for almost any weather. It’s not on retail racks yet, look for it as the the 2011 summer wanes.

Sexy titanium travel accessories from Snow Peak

The spork is one of those things you really shouldn’t leave home without. Yeah, it’s dorky and has funny name, but it’s your friend when you want a yogurt from the corner market and all you have to eat it with are those stir sticks in the hotel coffee condiment package.

And the refillable coffee or other beverage canister, well, are you really still taking your coffee to go in a throw away paper cup? It’s not like you can’t find those refillable things as swag at every other conference you attend, right?

Say you’re not too uptight to reuse your own coffee container, but you don’t want one that says “large software company” or “weird beverage with additives” on the side. Say you want something that’s mad stylish, sexy even. Say you want your spork to express the fact that you are traveling light, practical, and know your metallic elements. Snow Peak has the gear for you and it’s dead sexy stuff, too.

Here’s what hot about the spork: The colors, for starters, those yummy brushed metal colors. They’re not painted, the color is bonded to the metal through some kind of crazy magic, so while yeah, they’ll fade over time, they’ll still hold that shiny blue, that that glowing purple, that sparkly green.There’s a punchhole on the handle so you can put it on your key ring. And really, it’s pretty. Also, for now, there’s no mention of the mighty spork on the TSA’s prohibited items list — I checked.As for Snow Peak’s Kanpai bottle/canister, it’s super sharp too, and super light weight. It’s got three lids for it — one for hot, one for cold, and one with a sliding valve for drinking. You can store the cold lid in the freezer, making your canister the perfect tiny icebox for one can of soda (or, uh, adult beverage). The drinking lid has a tight enough valve on it that it’s not going to leak when it’s in the water bottle pocket on the outside of your daypack. It comes in silver white, or red, and it’s also a very sharp looking piece of gear.

Snow Peak makes a lot of other smokin’ hot gear — their Hozuki camping lantern won a Travel+Leisure design award. The gear in the Snow Peak lines isn’t cheap (the spork comes in at a modest $9.95, but the canister retails for $69.95.) but it’s well designed. It’s the kind of stuff an outdoorsy person like me wants someone to give them as a gift, or that you’d want to give to someone that’s got everything but might appreciate a really good one that’s meant to last forever. (See also: Cafe latte set. Want.) Super lightweight. Serious style. Yeah, I like pretty much all of this stuff. It’s the truth.