Can Robots Replace the TSA?

Can Robots Replace the TSA?

As technology continues to grow and expand its boundaries in the 21st century, analysts have started to question the legitimacy of incorporating robots into security systems. More specifically, the potential for robots to be used as a substitute for Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) agents during the airport security checkpoint process has been considered. Ultimately, the potential benefits seem to outweigh the costs, with the general concept of robotic security making a whole lot of sense in the big picture.

We have all had the feeling at one point or another, walking into the airport and seeing a line seemingly a mile long which of course turns out to be an incredibly busy security checkpoint. Although for the most part the (TSA) does an excellent job in expediting the screening process as much as possible, wait times for airports across the country continue to skyrocket. One of the main reasons for this includes a reported significant labor shortage by TSA agents, leading to overworked and understaffed airport agencies. This not only speaks worries for the individuals trying to board the flights, but also is potentially worrisome because of the challenges that a fatigued TSA security agent can pose. All it takes is one missed prohibited device in the screening process to put the TSA under major fire, which has been documented recently.

Airport security faced the majority of its scrutiny following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Despite vastly increasing the security levels since the attacks, airports worldwide have still faced questions about how weapons and certain objects continue to circumvent safety authorities and make their ways on to flights. Although many airports nationwide are reporting increases in the prevention of weapons successfully making it aboard, the simple threat of a firearm testing security is one that sounds much more suited for an automated robot than a human being.

What happens in the next decade remains uncertain, however, I am confident that the traditional security checkpoint at local airports will see complete transformations. Not only will the human error factor be eliminated by a robot conducting a screening process, but the process will without a doubt be quicker, decreasing the well documented mile-long security lines. In reality, the technology has simply become too advanced not to call for an implementation of robotics into TSA screening procedures, regardless of the impact that it will have on American jobs.

This blog was originally posted at


A Beginner’s Guide to “Local” Travel

picnic-1208229_1920A few years ago, I was traveling to New York when I realized that many of the cities I had visited lately were starting to blend together. There was nothing that stood out to me about the cities, and I started wondering if I was the only person feeling that way. After doing some research, I came across analysis done by Eric Fisher based on the geolocation of Twitter images by users visiting the city and users who were local to the city. The results of this project shaped the way I travel to this day. By avoiding the typical tourist destinations, I have been able to appreciate each city for its unique destinations off the beaten path. This following tips will help take the guesswork out of “local” travel to let you experience your next destination like you’ve been living there for years.

Stay with Airbnb

One of the reasons every city started blending together for me was where I was staying. Every franchised hotel looks like the one before it. Before you make any hotel reservations, check out Airbnb to get a genuine feel for the city. The concept behind Airbnb is simple and rapidly taking over the travel industry: someone in a location has a spare room, so they rent it to someone else traveling to that destination. Resting your head in a building built in the 1800s just outside of the city limits will trump any experience you can have where they offer continental breakfast.

Turn your phone off

It seems counterintuitive for someone to turn their phone off in a strange city in 2016, but to me, it is one of the most important ways to truly experience somewhere new. On your first day there, make time to walk around and take in the sights by truly experiencing them. If you see anything that you absolutely need a picture or video of, there will be time for that later in your trip. Make sure you know where you are staying before you leave, but don’t be afraid to get a little lost and venture off the beaten path. Always have at least one other person by your side before you set out to explore.

Talk to the locals

There are a plethora of travel apps that will give you the best-rated restaurants, shops, and attractions in any given city. The problem is, the majority of those destinations are voted on by people who do not actually live in the city. If you want the best Italian dining experience while you travel, talk to someone who has tried more than one Italian restaurant in the city. Walk into a small business and ask someone working there for some recommendations. It is likely that they will recommend another small business, which is where you’ll get your most authentic experience.

The idea of “local” travel is not just a unique way to experience a new city, but it is also a way to support the businesses that are the foundation of that city. Whether you are out to eat, seeing a show, or buying souvenirs for your family, you’ll have a better experience with the locals.

National Parks Service Announces 10 Free Days in 2017

National Parks Service Announces 10 Free Days in 2017

General Sherman, the largest tree on earth in Sequoia National Park in California. The otherworldly hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah. The wondrous, diverse landscape of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Sixty-foot faces carved into solid rock on Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota. These are just a few of the wonders that can be found in America’s 58 national parks.

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service had a birthday. It turned 100 years old. In honor of that milestone, the entrance fee to all national parks will be waived for ten days in 2017.

These are the days you’ll be able to see these wonders without charge:

January 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February 20 Presidents’ Day
April 15-16 and 22-23 Weekends of National Park Week
August 25 National Park Service birthday
September 30 National Public Lands Day
November 11-12 Veterans Day weekend

What’s Free and What’s Not

These free days include:

• Entrance fees
• Commercial tour fees
• Transportation entrance fees

They do not include:

• Boat launch fees
• Camping fees
• Transportation
• Third-party fees and special tours

Any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass to all national parks through the Every Kid in a Park program. Also, active military personnel and those with a permanent disability are entitled to a free annual pass.

In the national park system, 124 parks charge an entrance fee, and these fees range from $3-$30. In 2015, 307 million people visited America’s national parks. The most visited national park is Great Smoky Mountains National park in North Carolina and Tennessee. Second is the Grand Canyon.

If you want to continue your exploration of national parks, you can obtain an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass for $80. This annual pass allows unrestricted entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all 413 national parks.

Why Visit

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in the press release, “National parks are known for their priceless beauty. On these ten days in 2017, they really will be priceless. We want everyone to visit their national parks and the fee free days provide extra incentive to experience these amazing places.”

Whether visiting a park for the first time or returning to an old favorite, take advantage of these ten free days in 2017 to taste, in the words of environmentalist and historian Wallace Stegner, “the best idea we ever had,” America’s national parks.

This blog was originally published at

Black Friday: The Best Day to Visit Museums

Black Friday: The Best Day to Visit Museums

Most Americans associate Black Friday as a National Day to Shop. Deals are out of this world, some may say. Whether this is true or not, one of my favorite traditions is to buck the system and spend the day browsing something other than a mall. Be it art, sculpture, or a historical exhibit, spending the day at a museum on Black Friday can be a great alternative to the crazed atmosphere happening at your mall.

Less Crowds

The absolute best allure of visiting a museum on Black Friday is the lack of crowds clogging the exhibit. Ask any museum-goer in any major city and they’ll tell you it’s near impossible to spend a relaxed visit on any other weekend of the year.  Patrons can meander through the museum at their ease and not feel stressed trying to navigate through large groups of other people. As an introvert, this is a huge plus.

Museum Shot

New Locations

Since lots of people travel to visit family over Thanksgiving, Black Friday is a great chance to visit museums in a city you and your immediate family do not live in. You can visit museums you might not have a chance to otherwise, especially on a day when not many people are there. Before you head to your destination, look up museums in the area and plan your day accordingly.

Great for Kids

At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself: what am I really teaching my kids on the day after we celebrate gratitude? Visiting a museum on Black Friday offer numerous benefits. You’ll be learning something new. You’ll start a family tradition. And finally, your kids can explore the space with more freedom.

Possible Discounts

A final bonus of heading to museums on Black Friday is the possible discounts. If the museum is not already free, you might get a special family or student rate and be able to get into the museum for next to nothing. Who knows what Black Friday deals you may snag in the Museum’s Gift Store.

Museums To Check Out

Staying around Salt Lake City over the holidays? Check out a few options in and around the city.

Natural History Museum of Utah – a free museum with beautiful architecture and a huge assortment of exhibits, from fossils and mineralogy to Native American life.

Museum of Ancient Life – a museum located half an hour south of the city, it has the world’s largest collection of mounted dinosaur skeletons, along with palaeontology lab where you can watch archaeologists work on uncovering fossils.

Church History Museum – this museum is a tribute to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and will give you an insight into the rich history of Mormonism.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts – located on the University of Utah campus, this museum features art from various cultures around the globe and also has collections of Native American and Western American art.

Daughters of Utah Pioneer Memorial Museum – this museum focuses on the lives and journeys of Utah’s Mormon pioneers, particularly Brigham Young, and includes many stories and tributes to those who first traveled to the frontier.

Museum Shot

How To Visit Central Park like a Local

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Is it possible to visit Central Park like a local? Or an introvert. Or any person who wishes to feel utterly alone inside a major city?

Today, I’m writing to say Yes. 

You might find it incomprehensible to find wildness amid New York City. Any local will be quick to tell you of the un-wildness that makes up most of Central Park.

But the true local, or introvert, or wild-seeker, will also be quick to point you to the North Woods.

In my many travels to Manhattan, one thing in the back of my mind is always this: how far to I have to go to be utterly alone? If your goal is to be the only person for the radius of a mile, say, then you’ll likely have to get in a car and drive for hours and hours. If you’re willing to settle for half a mile, then the same probably applies. If you’re willing to settle for being the only person in, say, a 100 yard radius, then all you need to do is go three or four subway stops from Times Square to the far north end of Central Park, where you’ll find the North Woods. And, owing to the thickly wooded nature of the spot, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re in geographic center of one of the most densely populated places on earth.


Note the utter lack of tourists (red dots) and near absence of locals (blue dots) in this corner of Central Park.

There are plenty of paved walking paths through the North Woods, but the real magic of the place you’ll find once you leave the asphalt and start poking around the many ad hoc dirt trails you’ll find. These are barely maintained and wind up hillsides in such a way as to make it seem you’re discovering some corners where humans never tread. It’s exciting. If you try to ignore the hum of the streets you’ll struggle to believe are just a few hundred feet away, you may hear the sound of running water. There are little waterfalls punctuating little streams here and there at the base of these hills. Get close enough and the sound of water soon overcomes the sounds of the city. This is where the illusion of being lost in the woods is complete.


It’s worth inserting a quick caveat here. Manhattan is a remarkably safe place, even late at night. But the north end of Central Park changes slightly after the sun goes down, and one gets the feeling that it’s not quite as safe as the rest of the island there after dark. This is born out by the increased presence of law enforcement in the area, compared to the south end. So if you explore the north end of Central Park, I recommend doing so while the sun is up.

Personally, I’d recommend getting there on foot, beginning at Columbus Circle in the extreme south west corner of the park. It’s a two and a half mile walk, but closer to three taking into account all the meandering you’ll do. There are almost no straight lines in Central Park.

If you want to get there via the subway, take the A, B or C lines from toward the Bronx and get off at the Cathedral Parkway subway (110th Street) stop.

Have you been to the North Woods? What are your favorite ways to get lost in NYC?

This article was orginally published on Judd’s travel website

The New, Boutique Role of the Travel Agent


Over the last few decades, technology has become sophisticated enough to take over many jobs that used to be the responsibility of actual people. Manufacturing requires less human input, farming uses sophisticated machines that a single person can operate, and even the food industry allows customers to order using a touch screen. Other industries are racing against the clock in an effort to stay ahead of the tech in their field. It still stands in question whether tech will replace jobs within the decade. Perhaps one of the professions hit hardest by the onset of technology has  A current profession that faces this threat is travel agents.

What statistics tell us

While some people in the tech agency or those outside of the travel industry seem skeptical about the future need for travel agents, data that’s been gathered says otherwise. Google has recently conducted research that shows people looking to book a trip will visit several different websites around 30 times before booking their tickets. They’re trying to find the best deal, but also don’t know what they should be looking for. Another study shows that travel agents are capable of saving consumers who use their services around $450.

According to that same survey, travelers were much more satisfied after using a travel agency to plan their trip. What did it save them? Money, time, and stress–not insignificant consolation prizes. And two-thirds of people said that having a travel agent help them plan greatly improved their entire experience.


Travel agents respond

In order to combat the idea that travel agents are a dying breed, agents, or advisors, continue to work hard to stay on top of their games. To accomplish this goal, they’ve taken advantage of the technology that many thought would hurt them. Travel advisors can accomplish most of their work remotely, allowing them to work from pretty much anywhere in the world. And while meeting with clients may be part of the job, several easy workarounds exist: Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout.

Agents spend a lot of their time traveling to different destinations to develop an understanding of the area and find the best places to stay, sites to visit, and restaurants to dine at, among other aspects of a trip. These whirlwind trips can be recorded and shared with anyone in a matter of seconds thanks to technology. Travel advisors have learned how to utilize social media and other technology in order to share their trips and tips, which often encourages people to contact them, through a call or email, and then book trips.

A Boutique Development

The initial fear that technology would end the profession of travel agents has been ameliorated with the simple fact that humans are good at doing what humans do. And when travelers want to find the best experiences that their destination offers, the internet can often do more harm than good. There are millions of reviews; thousands of hotels and restaurants to explore digitally. How can you be sure you’ve made the right choice? Will you be thinking about the other hundred options you could have chosen while your dining? Do you start to regret the hotel for its minor inconveniences? Yes, the internet is a wonderful database of learning, content, and user uploaded responses. But it can also make us more picky; less happy; and unable to actually enjoy that vacation that we’ve planned.

That’s where the travel agent steps in. Much like the personal chef was the boutique option to replace take-out, the travel advisor is a luxury that has something to offer beyond the world of Expedia. Yes, it’s part convenience, part savings. It’s also part nostalgia. Once we remove the human element of planning an excursion; it can feel less whole.

As long as they continue to utilize the technology that’s out there, I see no quick extinction of the profession for the foreseeable future.


The Art of Dining Alone



food-tomato-largeDuring the summer, I’m able to travel with my family but for work, I often find myself wandering down unfamiliar streets, stepping into small cafés and eateries. One thing that’s

When I was younger, the act of dining or traveling alone was not as appealing. But as I’ve explored more parts of the world and have learned to enjoy the quiet moments of discovery, I’ve come to look forward to these experiences as acts of self-reflection. It’s also a great opportunity to people watch.

If you’re not in the habit of dining alone, it can feel like a big step. Several thoughts might be running through your mind. Are people watching me? What will I discuss? Will I be bored?

Rest assured, like any adventure, it becomes less awkward, and more enjoyable over time. Take a look at the following tips. Dining alone is the foundation of a seasoned traveler.

Leave your amor at home

If you’re leaving your amour at home, then I’m guessing you’re also able to spend one night alone with just your company. Take ‘amor’ to mean anything that you can bring with you to distract from the experience: phone, tablet, magazine, book. Of course, you won’t always want to dine without these items, but to truly master the art of dining alone, you’ve got to be comfortable with your own company.

Find the Right Spot

Dining alone for the first few times will feel strange. To help relax you, find the right environment to make this work. My recommendation? Opt for a quiet, dimly lit bistro that is perhaps more accommodating to the solo diner than a loud, trendy eatery.

Wear the Right Attitude

Dogs can smell fear. Babies can, too. Take a deep breath and channel your inner confidence. We may be programmed to expect that our dining habits are social, but our perceptions shouldn’t define our experiences.

Think about it. Single people eat the majority of their meals alone. If you can’t remember the last meal you’ve eaten alone, take this as an opportunity to enjoy a time with yourself.

Take Advantage of your Server’s Expertise

When you’re alone, you’ll have a longer amount of time to spend with your menu. Instead of trying to choose a meal on your own, enlist the help of your server. Nobody has a better knowledge of the food than your server, so take advantage of their inside intel.

Make the Occasion Memorable

Find a reason to celebrate this meal. Maybe you just received a big job promotion. Or you’ve just completed the half-marathon you were training for over the last year. Maybe the event is smaller. You’re committing to a positive change in your life. You read 15 books last year. Whatever event you want to highlight, take advantage of the evening. Positive reinforcement does wonders for our own personal growth.

What did I miss? Do you have any secrets on how to break into the art (and enjoyment) of dining alone?