Book From A BMW, Enter The Hotel Room With A Car Key

The key to the future of hotel booking might just lie in new technologies being developed by BMW. The car company is researching a process that will allow drivers to book a hotel room from their car’s navigation system, be directed to their hotel and then proceed straight to their rooms where they can then unlock their hotel room doors using a chip in their keys.

BMW has been working with electronic lock and safe company VinCard Elsafe and Micros property management systems to create the new mode of booking, which works thanks to near-field communications (NFC) – a set of short-range wireless technologies.

Here’s how it works: drivers will be prompted to enter their credit card information into their navigation systems one time (and one time only). BMW’s navigation system will then be able to use Google to detect nearby hotels, populating a list for the driver. The system will connect to the hotel reservation system thanks to Micros, a property management software, which enables guests to book and pay for the room from the car. At this point, drivers must confirm their identity by entering a personal identification number. A credit card clearing company handles the invoicing and the hotel is notified that the reservation is guaranteed. It sounds complicated, but the entire process will only take a few taps on a screen for drivers.

Then comes the really cool part: the hotel room assignment is then sent back to the car, where drivers can press a button on their navigation system that puts them on course to the hotel. Their car key, which is equipped with NFC, will then receive an access code to the guest room. Guests have no reason to check in at the desk; they can go straight to their room where VinCard Elsafe locks, which are NFC-enabled, will let them in with the swipe of a key.

There was some buzz about BMW’s research back in April, but a press release from VinCard Elsafe confirms that development is underway. For now, we can only speculate what this means for the future of hotel booking – even to those of us who don’t drive BMWs. When the new mode of booking is finally introduced, here’s to hoping drivers pull over to the side of the road to make their selections.

[Photo by drewgstephens, Flickr]

Daily Pampering: iPad finds a home in BMW’s back seat

What once made your kids excited about car rides will soon be replaced with something even better…

Forget the back-seat video screens that used to keep the kids quiet (until the fights broke out over what to watch), the iPad is making its way into the back seats of BMWs.

USA Today is reporting that BMW will install optional brackets on the rears of the front seats of the next X3 crossover so back-seat passengers can read, watch movies, surf the Internet or play games while in the car on their Apple iPads. Revolutionary? Actually, yes. With this little enhancement, BMW buyers won’t have to spend extra installing the back-seat entertainment screens. Reports say BMW plans to show off the system at the Paris Motor Show next month.

This daily pampering is less about cost, and more about sanity. What better way to keep the back-seat quiet than with their own pre-loaded iPads that fit safely and snuggly in the brackets – no holding required. Kudos, BMW, for creating yet another way to occupy our kids so the adults can have a civilized drive that doesn’t end with one parent yelling, “Don’t make me pull this car over…”

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Morocco by motorcycle

The guys over at Urban Daddy have been on a roll lately, unearthing some pretty cool packaged tours. First there was Urbane Nomads’ dive trip to the Great Wall of China. Now they’ve found an organized luxury tour of Morocco, by motorcycle.

Hispania Tours offers a 15-day tour through Morocco that features 13 days of riding on BMW motorcycles. The route starts and ends in Malaga, Spain, and includes stops in Marrakech, High Atlas, Fez, Erg Chebbi, and Merzouga in Morocco. At close to €4000, it’s not cheap. But for the price, you’ll get a guide who’ll lead your group of up to 8 riders along the route, a chase van that will take care of any breakdowns and transport your luggage from place to place, accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts and dinners, all ferry tolls, insurance, and a camel ride at Merzouga.

The company also runs tours through Spain and Portugal, which range from €2000 to €3000 per person. Self-guided tours that include just hotel and motorcycle start at €1300 and motorcycle rentals only start at €75 per day. Pillions (riders who sit behind the motorcycle driver on the same bike) pay about 1/4 of the full rate and according to the website, routes can be tailored according to experience level.

Long Way Down: Through Europe and Africa by Motorcycle

A few years back I happened to stumbled upon a book called Long Way Round, by movie star friends Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. It was the personal account of their east-bound trip around the world, from London to New York, by motorcycle. I bought the book to give as a gift to my brother who has a passion for both travel and motorcycles — it seemed like a perfect fit. Before his birthday rolled around, I sat down to read the book first (like any self-respecting cheapskate would do). Long Way Round started off solid: discussing their route, planning the trip, working out the visas, but then they decided to bring along a camera crew and document the trip.

Great, I thought. A couple more movie stars traveling the world with video cameras. The idea sounded lame, but I pressed on and finished the book. The story turned out to be pretty good, and definitely compelling, though I couldn’t escape the fact that Ewan and Charley’s “adventure” seem spoiled by a trailing camera crew. I wondered how much of an adventure it really could be with camera men, producers, directors, and whoever else following them around. And the fact they were movie stars made me think they used their money to make the trip a lot easier than it would be for the average Joe.

It didn’t occur to me until about a year later that — hey! — since there was a camera crew following them, I could probably watch the book. I did some research and found that Long Way Round (the show) aired on Britain’s Sky One in 2004, and went to DVD in 2005. I ordered the DVD from Amazon, and was blown away when I sat down to watch. This was easily the most interesting, compelling, funny, adventure-inspiring show I had ever watched. And you know what? Ewan and Charlie really did do all the hard work. They pot-marked roads didn’t treat them like celebrities; remote Mongolian farmers didn’t know who they were. They struggled, they endured the pain and homesickness, and traveled like the best of them. I was truly impressed.

This is why I was so excited yesterday to find out that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are teaming up again for another adventure. This month the two will set out — camera crew in-tow once again — from John O’Groats, Scotland and ride their BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. The show, dubbed Long Way Down, will premiere on BBC in Autumn/Winter 2007, but those of us outside of Britain (or without fancy satellite television systems) might have to wait for the DVD release.

You can sign up for email alerts on, as well as view some video of Ewan and Charlie talking about the upcoming trip.

Related: Talking Travel with Lois Pryce (she roder her motorcycle from the northern tip of Alaska to the southern most point of Argentina — 20,000 miles in 10 months, passing through 14 different countries)