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Here's the one sign you have a CHOCOLATE ADDICTION

It's 3 AM. You're at the office, top button of your shirt released and tie loosened. You're nowhere near finished for the night, and there's a good chance you'll see the rest of the company show up before you go home. So, you reach into the lower right drawer of your desk, take out your stash and do a quick, refreshing line off your desk. Exhilarating.

No, you don't have to call Nancy Reagan on me to leave an acerbic comment below. I'm not talking about coke ... I'm talking about cocoa. Chocolate.

We all know someone who loves chocolate, and there are always a few who take that tasty affair to a totally uncomfortable level. Well, when Christmas comes this year, you won't have to try as hard. When I was in Bruges, Belgium a few weeks ago, I ran into the one gift that will appeal to the choco-holic in your life.

Five good business habits that suffer when you travel

business travelBusiness travel isn't easy. In order to make the most of the money you're spending, you wind up sacrificing sleep, cramming in as many meetings as possible and adopting a pace of life that you'd never be able to maintain at home. It's severe, it's unpleasant and it's a simple fact of life on the road. Your personal well-being tends to be the first casualty. Diet and exercise are cast aside, as you sacrifice them to business objectives. Sleep doesn't last long, either – I can't count how many six-hour nights quickly slipped to three.

What often gets overlooked, however, is the impact that business travel can have on your business habits. We all lament the personal effects, but we tend to miss those that matter most to why we're on the road to begin with! Hectic schedules and long lists of business needs can ultimately cause your performance to suffer.

Let's take a look at five good business habits that are jeopardized when you're on the road:

High finance for HomeAway says a lot about travelers

HomeAwayAs the travel industry claws its way back from the depths of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent consumer credit hangover, bright spots are already beginning to emerge. And unsurprisingly, it's the non-traditional sort that seems to be leading the charge. After all, stung by layoffs, pay cuts and other personal austerity measures, we've had to find ways to spend less while still traveling. So, it's no surprise that HomeAway got popular ... and that investors are rewarding it.

What does all your HomeAway use mean?

Well, for starters, it translates to $216 million raised in one day. HomeAway went public yesterday, and its shares shot up 49 percent to just over $40 each. Now, the vacation rental company is worth $3.2 billion. Trading at 19 times 2010 revenues, HomeAway's valuation is more generous than that of Priceline (8.1X 2010 revenue) and Expedia (2.3X 2010 revenue).

So, what's all this financial stuff have to do with us, the traveling public? To me, it signals behavior. For HomeAway to be valued so richly, investors must see a lot of potential. Look for more people to look at the vacation rental alternative to hotel rooms and other traditional lodging options.

Five reasons the airlines don't need to care about you

airlines care about money far more than they care about youI'm getting on a plane next week, and I'm not looking forward to it. This will be yet another long, painful flight this year – and I've already had more than I have in a while. Though I'm getting used to this sort of business travel again, I can't say that I like it. All the time spent in transit, quite frankly, blows.

It isn't unusual at this point to lament the state of customer service in an industry that won't even call us customers. How nice it would be to be treated well and given a product worth consuming, right? Well, we all know that isn't going to happen. And the truth is that there's no reason for it.

The airline industry really wouldn't benefit from making our lives better, while the impact of the status quo on airline shareholders is as positive as it is evident. Let's take a look at five reasons why it would be stupid for the airlines to start treating us better:

Five ways to lighten your load when traveling on business and pleasure

traveling on businessIf you've gone on a long business trip, there's a good chance you've tacked a vacation onto the front or back of it. Why not? You're already on the road. If business takes you (or close to) an interesting place, it makes sense to get the most out of your experience – and the plane ticket you've already purchased. Unfortunately, this can be a pain sometimes. You wind up with a lot of luggage to drag around, which can be uncomfortable at best.

Don't let this problem get in your way!

There are a number of ways you can change how you pack to make your business-and-pleasure combo easier to manage. Let's take a look at five of them:

Expedia a step closer to ditching TripAdvisor

Expedia to sell TripAdvisor for $4 billionTravel industry ... welcome to high finance! By the end of the year, online travel agency Expedia is expected to spin off its TripAdvisor unit in an initial public offering, according to MarketWatch. And, the deal could be worth as much as $4 billion.

Think about it: all those hotel reviews you've written, photos you've posted and advice you've sought could be worth as much as Facebook generates in advertising revenue this year. Clearly, you've been working hard to churn out all that free content for your fellow travelers.

So, here's the cosmic justice in all this. Expedia, the largest online travel agency in terms of revenue (which is what really matters), is set to benefit in a big way. But, you don't post to TripAdvisor for fame and fortune. You do it to help your fellow travelers. Well, imagine how much traveling the folks cashing in on this IPO will be able to do. Maybe they'll take your reviews to heart!

Look for the IPO filing in a few weeks ... and celebration by a handful of people around the Christmas holiday.

[photo by jollyUK via Flickr]

Five reasons I'm insanely jealous of Michael O'Leary

I am jealous of Michael O'Leary. Very. The CEO of super-low-rent European discounter Ryanair, O'Leary has developed a reputation. He's loud. He says what's on his mind. He really doesn't care what you think about him. He's probably broken every rule of public relations and investor relations. I've been with Gadling since December 2008, and O'Leary has been a great source of posts every step of the way.

So, he's the CEO and he can say what he wants. This isn't really how it works: most CEOs have plenty of people telling them what to say and when to shut up. This is why O'Leary has it made.

And now it's time for my confession: five reasons I'm jealous of Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair:

  • Definitely no room for the oversized on Ryanair flights
  • Stepping off a Ryanair Plane
  • Safety First!
  • Are those pay-to-pee invoices?
  • If you can find the elbow room ... you're lying
  • Elbows or drink carts - not both

Airline fuel costs up almost a third since last year

Airline fuelSo, how expensive is fuel for the airline industry? Brace yourself: the situation is pretty ugly. In April 2011, airlines in the United States dropped an average of $2.99 a gallon on fuel. That number sounds a lot better than what you're seeing at the pump, right? How can it be that bad?

Well, this is yet another month-over-month increase. In March, the airlines spent an average of only $2.80 a gallon on get fuel, according to the latest data from the U.S Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 30 days, we're looking at a 6.8 percent spike. Look back even further, and the numbers don't get any prettier. In April 2010, the U.S. airline industry spent an average of $2.29 on fuel. In one year, the average cost has surged an incredible 31 percent!

If you thought driving was too expensive because of gas prices, you'll find the skies decidedly unfriendly.

[photo by octal via Flickr]

Airline fees are worth more than Facebook

Airlines, Facebook and money

Outside the travel world, everyone's marveling at the prospect of a Facebook IPO, which could be valued at as much as $100 billion. So, what are we missing while we fawn over Mark Zuckerberg's creation? How about the slow, stodgy, ugly airline industry. Known for a painful user experience and a steady decline of free features, the likes of Delta and American Airlines are outdoing the hottest online property in the world simply by annoying their customers.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, baggage and reservation change fees brought the U.S. airline industry a whopping $5.7 billion last year. Delta picked up close to a billion dollars on baggage fees alone, which doesn't include what they yanked from the wallets of soldiers returning home from combat. The largest airline in the country also brought in approximately $700 million from reservation change fees.

American Airlines, the fourth largest airline in the United States, came in second in both categories, with $580.7 million in baggage fees and $471.4 million in reservation change fees.

Could your cell phone make you an in-flight killer?

Could my Kindle have the potential for murder? Mayhem? Needless to say, I may think twice before firing it up during takeoff on my trip to London at the end of the month!

I'll be the first to admit that I thwart airline rules about turning on electronic devices during takeoff and landing. I don't like reading print, and a year and a half after getting it, I still have a comfortable yet steamy love affair with my Kindle. I just can't resist flipping the switch at the riskiest of times during my flights.

According to a report that ABC News got its hands on, though, I might be putting many, many lives at risk. ABC picked up a confidential industry study that indicates the safety issues could be real. Very real.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) studied survey responses from 125 airlines from 2003 to 2009 and found ... "75 incidents of possible electronic interference that airline pilots and other crew members believed were linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices." Twenty-six of them, a tad more than a third, "affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust and landing gear." Another 17 hit navigation systems, with 15 affecting communication systems.

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