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Book it yourself or use a Travel Expert? - Ten things to consider!
blog January 20, 2017

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Book yourself or use a travel agent? ›  


Book it yourself or use a Travel Expert? - Ten things to consider!

Book it yourself or use a Travel Consultant? - Ten things to consider!

 It’s vacation time and you are hyped to get things underway to make your trip and all related plans a super memorable and positive event. So, what do you do to get things started? You've got your items-to-pack checklist naturally headed by packing your Pillowpacker inflatable travel pillow! One of the first things to consider is whether or not to use a travel consultant or take the DIY approach.

With every choice in life there are likely Pros and Cons and of all the things to consider about vacation or trip planning, this first step is probably the most important one you will make. Doing so with eyes wide open with awareness of potential (or probable) pitfalls is sage advice.

Here is a list of some of the most important things to consider when making this vital choice. Frankly this list could go on and on but according to Carole Gobeil, Travel Specialist with Far Horizons, these deserve particular attention:

  • Are your plans simple or complicated?
  • Are there deadlines or inflexible aspects to your trip?
  • Is saving money (real or perceived) your most important criterion?
  • Are you tech-savvy or some grade of Luddite; do you have time to do all the research and credibility checks of the on-line offers you will come across?
  • Are you a “seasoned” traveller with some real world awareness and healthy skepticism about what you see on-line?
  • Are you familiar with important aspects of your destination like is it monsoon season (hence low rates) or a civil war (hence low rates)?
  • If you hit a major snag would you want a “help line” to call?
  • Are your funds protected if you transfer your payment to a small agency operator in a foreign country if you book directly? Will they be there when you arrive?
  • Who will help you with accurate information regarding recommendations regarding immunization, visas, legal entries into foreign countries, etc.?
  • Have you considered travel insurance?

 As mentioned earlier, this list is not exhaustive but should whet the appetite of travellers who have come to this T-intersection in their planning stage. Let’s have a look at each point:

  • Are your plans simple or complicated? If you are travelling to a single destination, staying relatively put, and then returning home then on-line booking may be a low risk option. However if you are planning a multi-city or multi-country route with connections and various modes of transport with accommodations or special needs then this is where Specialists can really earn their way.

  • Are there deadlines or inflexible aspects to your trip? To no one’s surprise the wedding you are trying to attend will proceed whether or not you get there unless you are either the bride or the groom. Who will fill in for you to give your company presentation to potential new clients if you booked connecting flights with inadequate time between flights? So the more your travel plans are skewed towards the “inflexible” side of the scale the more you should consider using an industry Specialist.
  • Is saving money (real or perceived) your most important criterion? Who doesn’t want to save money? But are the savings real or based on marketing material from suppliers? Do you have time and expertise to drill down and check out the validity of these offerings? This is a subjective call every traveller must make and then proceed with eyes wide open. What is your hourly rate for all that time researching, to only question your results at the end?
  • Are you tech-savvy or some grade of Luddite; do you have time to do all the research and credibility checks of the on-line offers you will come across? On-line booking of simple plans as mentioned above may not need special technical talent. But, wherever there are on-line promotions there are inevitably imbedded links that can easily get the less tech-savvy browser lost in the detail and unable to get back to some earlier website. Can you quickly navigate in and out of secondary or deeper searches needed to validate claims or read reviews? Again, you be the judge.

  • Are you a “seasoned” travel with some real world awareness and healthy skepticism about what you see on-line? I have a saying “if you don’t travel you don’t have stories”. Not always good stories either. Sleeping in airports, borrowing or buying clothes while your luggage takes its own journey, finding out your hotel room doesn’t quite match the brochure pictures, sitting in a window seat or between or beside people you’d never add to your Christmas card list….on and on. The more one travels the more one realizes that things happen, surprises happen (seldom good ones) and travel experts can often mitigate if not entirely prevent most of them, or at least prepare you with options if you do hit snags.
  • Are you familiar with important aspects of your destination like is it monsoon season (hence low rates) or civil strife (hence low rates)? Or wondering why flights are full around February to Asia (because of Chinese New Year). So you’ve read the brochure (what I call marketing fluff) or seen the TV ad extolling all the virtues of a place with happy, singing, frolicking people all having a great time. Their on-line site get you quickly to browse all the positive aspects of their particular location. A click or two and all is done and dusted; what could be easier? Well, let’s talk about a few. There is now a TV advertisement promoting a country that has been in a civil war for years and still is! Try and find reference to this on their site…..nope! How about tropical storms or monsoon season being highlighted? Not likely! Maybe kidnappings or prevalence of pickpockets of related dangers, travel warnings from your government agencies? Sorry, missed those too! But, have we got great rates for you! Caveat Emptor really applies to exotic or unfamiliar global destinations and again, given your tolerance to risk or travel experience, on-line bargains may prove to be somewhat less than expected.
  • If you hit a major snag would you want a “help line” to call? Again, this is a personal choice based on experience and level of risk tolerance so one size fits one. But say you need to quickly find a reputable translator or guide to help you clear up misunderstandings, confusion, missing or lost items at some crucial juncture, who you going to call? A person you personally know back home or a 1-800 number that is answered by a call centre likely after you have heard how important your call is to them for 20 minutes or more? The choice is, as always, up to you.
  • Are your funds protected if you transfer your payment to a small agency operator in a foreign country if you book directly? Will they be there when you arrive? Are you even aware that a transfer has occurred as it may happen through software on the site? What questions do you ask to clarify this potential issue and get assurances you are protected?
  • Who will help you with accurate information regarding recommendations regarding immunization, visas, legal entries into foreign countries, etc.? This point sort of speaks for itself!!
  • Have you considered travel insurance? This is a question you should rate on your own “tolerance to risk” scale. As an example, you opt to not buy insurance on a $500 trip and you lose your money because of some unforeseen development, that’s a pity but likely survivable. How about if you’ve spent $10,000 on your trip? Do you roll the dice?

So, in summary, and as with most things in life, we are free to make choices and travel planning is increasingly offering the option to do it yourself. A healthy dose of skepticism about savings and benefits will serve any traveller well. Weighing the pros and cons of going it alone versus with the help of a travel expert based on the points outlined in this article should increase the odds for travellers having a more enjoyable vacation and prepare them better for future ones!

 

A Look at the Inflatable Naughty List
blog December 27, 2016

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A Look at the Inflatable Naughty List

Ok, so after several days of inflation I evaluate the inflatables to see if any show signs of leaking....these go on the Naughty list and don't make it into our pillows. I reject about 30% of those I test because even those that show the slightest sign of air loss don't pass the test. Here is a look at those that made the Naughty list.
Why your Pillowpacker pillow stays puffy!
blog December 26, 2016

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Why your Pillowpacker pillow stays puffy!

Why do Pillowpacker pillows stay puffy? It's a very manual process that I perform to ensure your pillow stays puffy! I inflate about 20-30 inflatable liners at a time using a compressor and stack them up and just wait...any that show any signs or leakage make the "naughty" list and don't make it into our pillows. This test inflates pillows much more firmly than any human could ever do so if our inflatable withstand this test for at least 3 days then we put them on the "nice" list and are ready for including in our pillow sets. Check back soon for  look at the "Naughty" list.
Tanzanian Lions
blog October 23, 2016

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Garry Goes the Extra Mile

At Pillowpackers we pride ourselves on our personalized custom service, which we believe is pretty rare today, especially in online businesses. Garry, our Chief Pillow Officer, has often gone an extra mile to make sure customers have their pillows.

Last Friday I listened to a voicemail in between my appointments. “I want to buy one of your pillows...we are leaving tomorrow for an overseas trip... we live in Brockville!” Hmmm. I called Garry on his cell. No answer. I sent a text: “Urgent pillow order-check voicemail.” I left for my afternoon appointments.

By the time I returned, Garry had already packed the order -- one of our luxurious and highly packable Canadian-made microfiber inflatable travel pillows, arranged a meeting with the buyer’s friend who lived in delivered Ottawa and was on his way home in Friday afternoon traffic. The friend would deliver the product to the buyer at the airport before their flight the next day.

Garry told me that the couple was heading off on Saturday morning for a trip to Africa. The husband had chronic neck pain and he was concerned that lack of a good pillow would lessen his enjoyment of their trip. Their travel advisor, Carole Cobeil of Far Horizons, had suggested he buy a Pillowpacker Pillow but with all the details of preparation, he had forgotten to order one. Then it was the day before the trip. Hence the urgent phone call.

We do hope to hear from our newest pillowpacker on return from their trip. And thanks, Carole, for recommending Pillowpacker® Pillows!

 

Your Pillow, Your Way
blog May 30, 2016

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Your Pillow, Your Way

The Internet has a lot of advice on selecting the right pillow because having the right pillow is essential in getting a good night’s sleep. Most doctors, physiotherapists and other sleep experts recommend selecting a pillow that provides the right level of support based on your sleeping position. Having the right pillow helps maintain the spine in “neutral alignment,” i.e., the same position of the head and spine as when standing with good posture. The neutral alignment in the side and back sleeping postures are illustrated in Figure 1.

Maintaining a Neutral Alignment of the Spine

People who sleep on their sides need more support than those who sleep on their back. Side sleepers need a pillow that fills the gap between the shoulders and the neck keeping the spine more or less parallel to the bed. Back sleepers generally need a pillow with extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle the neck in an unstrained manner. Stomach sleeping is not encouraged but if you do, you need a soft thin pillow to minimize pressure on the neck. If you are a multi-position sleeper, the best pillow for you might have softer and firmer sections, or be lower in the center for back sleeping and higher on the sides for side sleeping. For people who have neck problems or back pain experts might recommend contoured neck supports or knee pillows.

As for fillings, most experts recommend down or down and feather mixes because of their ability to reduce pressure points, mold to the sleeper’s needs, and their natural moisture wicking and heat regulating properties. If specific allergies are a concern a good quality polyester microfiber is an alternative but generally is not expected to last as long as good quality down and down/feather blends. Washability is important as experts also recommend regular pillow washing to reduce the build up of dead skin cells, mould, dust mites and other impurities.

The Pillowpacker® Pillow – Your Pillow, Your Way

Sleep experts also agree that sleeping away from home presents additional challenges due to unfamiliar surroundings. We at Pillowpackers don’t think travellers need to suffer unfamiliar and ill-fitting pillows at any time. With a Pillowpacker® Pillow you can have your own pillow, your own way, wherever you rest your head.

The small but powerful little Pillowpacker® Pillow is approximately half the size of a standard bedroom pillow at 29 by 14 inches (48 by 36 cm) but it does the job of a full size pillow. The reason the Pillowpacker® Pillow is so effective is because of the inflatable contoured inner pillow at its core (Figure 2). The inner pillow is made of tough but flexible polyurethane film. (Polyurethane film, not to be confused with polyurethane foam, is safe and is widely used in many medical and consumer applications.)

The Pillowpacker® Inflatable Travel Pillow is totally customizable to your needs. By adjusting the amount of air in the inner pillow you control the firmness and support. Side sleepers require the firmest support – but this does not mean hard. It is the amount of air sufficient to support your head in the neutral alignment illustrated in Figure 1a. If you are a back sleeper you will require less air. The lower contour of the pillow will gently support your head in its neutral curve as illustrated in Figure 1b. The front or stomach sleeper, probably would use no air at all and just benefit from the properties of their own clean soft pillow upon which to rest their head and face. A combination sleeper can experiment with different pressures and see which best suits. 

Pillowpacker® Pillows also make great knee pillows. For back sleepers, placing a pillow under the knees can relieve back tension and allow the spine to rest in a neutral position. For side sleepers, a pillow between the knees reduced pressure on knee joints and prevents torsion of the hip and spine.  

Inflatable Inner Pillow

The inflatable inner pillow is nestled within an outer pillow, a zippered pouch made of a minimum of five ounces (150 grams) of the finest quality fillings. The purchaser has a choice of white goose down from the Hutterite communities of Alberta, duck down from Brome Lake, Quebec or Eco2 Suprelle Micro from Germany, in shells of 100% cotton. (For more information on our down, click here; for more information on Suprelle, click here.) All outer pillows are washable at 60 degrees centigrade, above the temperature necessary to kill dust mites. For washing instructions, click here.

Inner and Outer Pillow with PillowcasesThe pillow when assembled fits inside its own home-style100% cotton pillowcase in a choice of fashion colours. See Figure 3. For travelling, the ensemble compresses to fit in its own nylon stuff sack.

Because the Pillowpacker® Pillow is different from any other travel pillow, we recommend that our customers experiment for several nights at home before heading out on a trip to allow time to find the right inflation to meet their needs and preferences. From feedback we have received from customers -- and our own personal experience -- Pillowpacker® Pillows allow us to take our pillows wherever we travel. In fact, for a number of us they have even become our primary bedroom pillows we love them so much!

Finding the right travel pillow is no laughing matter. Or is it?
blog April 29, 2016

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Finding the right travel pillow is no laughing matter. Or is it?

If you Google “travel pillows” the variety of shapes, sizes, features and claims made have to make you laugh. The funniest products in my mind are the Sky Rest and the Ostrich. The former is an inflatable block-shape pillow roughly the size of a milk crate that sits on your lap or fold-out table and the Ostrich is a bean-filled hood that covers your entire head except for your nose and mouth so that you look like a giant eyeless teddy bear. Oooh, bad hair.

 There are also innumerable reviews and comparisons to be found on the Web. The best one I found was in the Gear and Gadgets section of the Wall Street Journal, called “Desperately Seeking Slumber,” by 
Nancy Keates, updated Feb. 1, 2013.

In her article, Keates rated eight conservative choices (i.e., neither the inflatable crate or the teddy bear head was included) on four criteria: Embarrassment Factor, Sleep-Aid Help, Packability and Set-Up Hassle.

 Although some of the neck support pillows provided reasonable relief for the middle seat, Keates recommends that travellers book a window seat and bring their own pillow with multiple pillowcases to ensure cleanliness on their journey.

 The surfeit of novelty and gimmicks among travel pillows can make it difficult to find what you are really looking for—a versatile, comfortable and sanitary travel pillow that will serve you while on route and at your destination.

 We think the Pillowpacker® Pillow is just the travel pillow Keates and you may be searching for! Adjustable firmness, built-in neck support, packable, easy to use, sanitary with extra pillowcases available, makes this pillow ideal for transportation and night-time sleeping away from home. And certainly, no one would feel embarrassed toting the world’s best home-style inflatable travel pillow in a choice of Canadian duck down, Hutterite goose down and Eco2 Suprelle Microfibre fillings in its tidy stuff sack.

Make the comparison for yourself. See the comparison chart to determine whether a Pillowpacker® Pillow is right for you.