Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wifi on Planes: The Next Big Travel Trend?

Welcome to the new trend in air travel. In the last few months alone, Aircell, a flight technology company, either has already installed or is in the process of installing its WiFi internet system called GoGo on nearly 500 airplanes including American, Virgin America, Air Tran, Delta, and United. JetBlue and Southwest are also reportedly testing WiFi equipment and considering adding it to some flights. Of course, this new in-flight service that may revolutionize air travel for the average passenger does come at a price to the customer. Gogo’s flight plans range from $5.95 for single flights up to 1.5 hours to $12.95 for a singe day pass on one airline to their most expensive plan at $49.95 for 30-day WiFi access on one single airline. For the travel industry and government officials, in-flight WiFi has opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of issues having to do with on-board technology and communication devices, namely, cell phones, which has added fuel to the fire of an already heated debate. Personally, surfing the net while flying does sound like a mighty convenient perk, but if it opens the door to cell phones, I'm not so sure that I like the idea of spending a few hours stuck in a what might sound like a noisy call center. Besides, isn't there something deliciously relaxing about being forced to turn off the blackberry and the computer for a few hours? What excuse will we have now?

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Inaugural Editor's Blog: Where We Are, Where We're Going, and How We're Going to Get There

Welcome all to the new weekly editor's blog for MondoExplorer! Over the past few months, MondoExplorer has added a number of new features, cities, and services to its readers, and now, it's time to open up the conversation about the places we explore, the people, businesses, and events we cover, and basically any and all things travel-related. Here's what we've got going on now: MondoExplorer is currently in the process of adding over 20 new U.S. cities to its roster of city guides, and we've added a number of new Explorers to our team who know these cities like the backs of their hands and are ready to tell you all about it, from a local's point of view. In addition to our insider city guides, MondoExplorer has also added an expanding feature section that provides up-to-date true travel advice, feature stories, news, announcements, and other useful tips. So, with all of this going on, we'd like to start hearing from you, too--and this is the perfect place to start. Every week we're going to be discussing--sometimes in-depth and sometimes just a few thoughts or our top picks for the week--what's going on in the world and how we can all, myself included, make the most of the places we visit (and the places where we live) by exploring things in new, unexpected ways. So let's get started . . .

Here's one of the stories that's been on my mind this summer as I've been doing research for MondoExplorer, and one that I'm anxiously awaiting to see come to fruition . . . Recently, new strides have been made in the plans to construct a high-speed railway station that would link several cities across the U.S. Even just yesterday it was announced that forty states expressed their enthusiasm and support for the railway, which Pres. Obama is championing, and which would be funded in part by federal grants and stimulus monies.

I have to say, when I first heard about the plans for the railway, I thought, "finally!" and then immediately imagined myself in a kind of Murder-on-the-Orient-Express-moment (minus the murder, of course)--white linen tablecloth dining, jazz piano tinkling in the background, sipping champagne while the rocky interior of some snow-capped mountain whizzed passed my window in a blur of grey and green. Having lived in several places in the world where train travel is a part of everyday life before settling in Miami (guess I'll have to adjust my day-dream, no snow-capped mountains here), I've ridden the unassuming train in and out of the city, but never on extended rides or overnight trips--and never anything half as glamorous as I have in my mind. And, despite the obvious convenience of a high-speed rail, the thing that comes to my mind (after fashioning myself as a kind of modern-day Bacall riding the rails in fur and diamonds, again not exactly a South Florida reality) . . . the thing that comes to my mind, is The City.

The U.S. is known across the globe for its sprawling freeways (which have an interesting enough history in and of themselves, but I'll save that for another post), ever-expanding suburbs, and basically for its disconnected, disjointed structure that makes constant and extended car travel an absolute must. Who can imagine living for any real length of time in Dallas, Atlanta, or even L.A. without a car? Not so in other major areas of the world where high-speed railway travel is the norm.

So, my question is this, assuming that the railway system changes the way that Americans travel, how will it change the way that we live and build our cities? How will it change the way that we effectively conceive of the city itself? And the small town, the suburb, the outskirts? What might they look like in a country where no-fuss, affordable, rapid transit forges a link between cities that might possibly turn the modern freeway system into a web of outdated wagon trails? A little dramatic, maybe, but obviously these and many more issues will be raised in the coming months as funding for the project (which is estimated at a cost of over $100 billion) gets underway and the real conversation about how this new system of transportation will ultimately affect the country begins.

Either way, I'm excited to see these changes discussed and believe that it's long overdue--I wonder if a small mink stole is too much for the Florida heat? Well, maybe I could just carry it . . .