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A Round-Up of the Small Improvements That Are Making Traveling More Enjoyable


We may travel to see the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal—big experiences all. But sometimes it’s the small touches that can make the difference between a happy vacation and one that feels, well, like a bumpy ride. Here are some new, if small, developments that I'm grateful for:

1) Advanced amenities at hotels: We’ve all come to expect hair dryers, shower caps and sewing kits in our rooms. But some hotels are getting downright creative when it comes to in-room perks, leaving a tube of lip balm next to the toothpaste (thank you Hyatt Regency) or a flat iron for hair in the closet (a new amenity at a number of hotels, and a real advance for those of us who frizz on the road).

2) Automatic check in for flights: United Airlines is now allowing those who check in online to request that they be automatically checked in for their return flight. Not only does that mean travelers can get to the airport a hair later, and still secure a seat (often the last to check in is the first to be bumped), but it takes one more “to-do” off the list of travel tasks.

3) Empty Middle Seats…At A Slight Extra Cost: Several airlines, El Al most notably, are experimenting with selling the middle seat for half its cost. Those who “bite” get more elbow room, quite literally, and yet are still paying far less than they would in Business or First Class.

4)  Small Plate Menus at Restaurants: We can thank the ever-increasing popularity of Spanish cuisine, with it tradition of tapas, for this one. In a trend that’s sweeping both North America and Europe, a number of restaurants are down-sizing portions, and encouraging their patrons to order a succession of small plates. This traveler loves this type of eating because it means I can try a lot of tastes at places that I know I’ll likely never return to again. I call it “no regrets” ordering.

5) Smartphone tours at museums: Don’t have the patience to follow a stranger around as they explain the museum pieces they find interesting? A number of museums are now adding bar codes to the wall text that accompanies the art on their walls. Visitors train their smart phones on the pieces that intrigue them and have a museum experience that feels both erudite and customized. And hey, there’s no extra cost, or headphones to return at the end of your visit.

(Photo by SanfaMedia/Flickr)