The Journal Sentinal published a story about an ongoing investigation of a 20 year old American tourist who died at an all inclusive resort in Mexico. The family believes she (and her brother) were targeted and drugged by the resort staff in an attempt to extort money from them. The family's attorney asserted that perhaps the resort was mixing brand name liquor with grain alcohol or other additives that can be toxic, harmful and fatal. The story was well written and well researched. I applaud the Journal Sentinal for quality journalism. The story itself is heartbreaking and it troubles me.
You can read the story here.
I'm not one to overreact. If anything, I am here to remind you that millions of Americans will visit all inclusive resorts (where your alcohol is included) this year. And with minor exception, they come home happy and extremely satisfied with their trip. The biggest danger being dehydration and too much exposure to the sun.
This horrific incident took place at a reputable resort owned and managed by an excellent company. If the allegations are true (which would be very hard to prove) that employees are mixing alcohols in an attempt to extort money from tourists, then this is a problem. However, the likelihood of proving that is pretty slim.
So what can you to protect yourself? Nothing...really. This is a numbers a game and the odds of being targeted by rogue employees for nefarious reasons is pretty slim.
On another note, this is HUGE story for resort owners. Pay close attention to this story, launch meaningful and private internal investigations and insure this ISN'T happening right under your nose at your properties. The last thing Americans need to hear is their free booze may kill them in Mexico. If that's the story that is heard, then they will simply go somewhere else.
On the 22nd of June, 2017, Ritz-Carlton announced it was getting into the luxury cruise business. Sometime in Q4 of 2019, three new ships will debut each featuring 149 suites to accommodate 298 guests. So the question I have is, will this be a brand branching too far out from its core business or will this be hailed as a wild success. Time will tell, but I think their is enough water in the ocean for luxurious competition. First, it's not as though we are in uncharted waters here. The commercial business is huge in this country and has come a long way since the first days of Carnival. And certainly there are other luxury yacht, small and mid ship cruises on the market, but Ritz has the cache and the mailing list to have a leg up on the competition. But I can say this, if anybody can get it to work it's Ritz Carlton and its parent company Marriott International.
You can read the official release here and get more information about RC Yachts here.
So I say we make our reservations in May of 2018 for a seven or ten day itinerary and then get ready to have a fantastic cruise.
I have some troubling news to report today, but don't panic. It's going to be okay. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was released the other day, and the key finding was that half of Americans will NOT be taking a vacation this Summer.
The survey, conducted in May of this year, said 43 percent of Americans won't be taking a summer vacation. The top reason for skipping a trip was the cost, cited by 49 percent of non-vacationers. Another 11 percent said they can't take the time off from work, while 3 percent said they don't like to be away from work. You can read the full study here (after you're finished reading my blog post).
Folks, now I am begging. Please do not underestimate the power of a few days off away from the pressures of your workplace. Expedia commissioned a study a few years ago and found some pretty compelling reasons to travel including lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. More reading from Expedia.
However, I do understand a financial constraint or a time constraint are real factors. Earlier this year we decided to embark on production of a Summer Video Series focused on one geographic area. Almost every place we planned to visit is within a six hour drive from another destination in the series. Primarily we wanted to draw the conclusion that your "backyard" is larger and more diverse than you may think. Never the less, it's a good idea to think about a mini-vacation close to home. Get out a map and draw a five hour concentric circle around your town and then pick one of the places within the zone. Anybody can do five hours in the car without going stir crazy! As far as the money goes, avoid spending more than you can afford. Stay in a clean local B&B or Inn and remember to pack snacks from home. It goes a long way in the vacation savings!
These are just a few tips I can share with you. But I say, less reading and more ACTUAL trip planning is in order for you. Now get out there and take that vacation!
Top ten travel tips is not my favorite subject because as far as I can tell, it matters to WHOM the top ten list is intended.
Travel is an odds game with so many factors working (or not working) at the same time, it’s impossible to have an end-all list. The ideas here are not hard and fast RULES, just my top ten suggestions that I follow when planning and taking a trip.
Go someplace you want to go
I love to explore new places, but don’t plan a trip (or agree to go on one with someone else) just because you find a cheap fare or a great hotel. Be sure to travel to places you personally think you would find interesting, stimulating or fulfilling. At the same time, manage your expectations and the expectations of others on your trip. Destinations always look better in print or online. No matter what, the place you’re traveling to will, in fact, be a little rough around the edges.
An ounce of planning goes a long way. That means, when you’re shopping for travel, look at travel websites, ask your friends, read the newspaper and listen to The Travel Show (of course). But, to the best of your ability, get educated about your destination selections and then narrow them down.
Make a “Leaving Home” checklist
On a recent trip overseas, I packed all my broadcast equipment and no microphone. This could have been avoided if I had made a list. Now, I have a packing list and an “on the ranch” checklist. Items like “stop newspaper delivery” are on the list.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to only pack only what you can carry by yourself. Also, be aware of weight restrictions of the airline in which you are flying. Also, you may want to bring home souvenirs, so leave room in your checked luggage. I never pack valuables in my checked luggage and I always have bag tags on the outside and business cards with the phrase written on the back: “if this bag is found, please call the number on this business card”.
Arrive at the airport EARLY
I follow the general rule of arriving at least 90 minutes for domestic flights 2 and ½ hours for international departures. I know it seems excessive, but missing your flight or stressing through the entire airport process can really do a number on your mood. Al so be sure to have all of your documents…passport, frequent flier number etc. Also, use the automated kiosks (if possible). Once you’re all checked in, you can wade through the security procedure with ease.
At the gate, ask for your preferred seats
If you are not happy with your seat or think you have a better chance of getting a different one (window…isle…exit row etc) then ask when you arrive at the gate.
Buy a bottle of water after security-trail mix-mints or gum
Staying hydrated is very important on airplanes. I always buy a small bottle of water (in the terminal (after security), some almonds and some gum. This way, I am prepared for whatever PANG hits me while confined to my cramped coach seat.
Plan to have something go wrong and set your positive mind set in advance
With more planes in the sky, antiquated air traffic control equipment, more people flying, the high cost of fuel and the weather, something is bound to get all fouled up on your next airport experience.
Don’t plan a set schedule on your air travel days
Because there are so many things that can go wrong, it’s a good idea to not schedule appointments on your travel days. Always try for the earliest flight of the day and then leave it nice and (fluid) upon your arrival.
Vacation is a time to spend an extra couple of dollars guilt-free. I’m not suggesting you go into bankruptcy, but you’ve earned the privilege of ordering the steak instead of the chopped steak. One caution, don’t “charge” your vacation. Any good financial analyst will tell you no vacation is worth digging yourself into a larger hole. Be sure you can afford the trip and then, have a great time!
My fellow travel adventure-seekers, just a quick note today to remind you to tip your housekeeper. That's right, the brave men and women who venture into multiple guest rooms and suites every day and pick up after us deserve a gratuity. But how much? I can shed a little financial light on the subject.
As a general rule, between $1-5 per day (per person) is completely acceptable, although anything is always appreciated. There's no need to perform a Google search, but their is plenty of sufficient data that supports this figure. A similar figure is suggested by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
We remember to tip the valet, the bellmen, the front door attendants because, well frankly, they are standing right in front of us. But the housekeeper's job is to work in the background. Therefore, sometimes people simply forget. If the housekeeper is exceptional, then a little more is also appropriate.
I always tip about $5 per night when I am traveling for business (in a three star or better hotel/resort). If my children are with me, I tip a little more. In addition, I leave the money on the table with a note to the housekeeper, thanking them for their hard work.
Oh, and saying hello to the housekeeper is also a nice touch. Most housekeepers work hard and, frankly, its a thankless job cleaning up after people. So spread the love and show them you care.
Overbooking is not a new problem. But having a cell phone video of just about every move you make in public is a growing concern for all us...not just the airlines. United today announced it is making adjustments to its overbooking policy based on the incident earlier this month. After you are finished reading this post, you can read the new policy updates here from United's website.
We all watched the April fiasco in horror (like an episode of the OA) where some guy was dragged off a plane all because the flight was overbooked and United needed to get its crew members on board. And while this incident was bottom line ridiculous, this incident speaks volumes about a much larger issue. I really hate to wax poetic about the past, but it wasn't that long ago when airlines truly empowered their employees to solve passenger issues, efficiently and with mutual satisfaction from all parties. More and more airlines (and other hospitality product suppliers) are opting to pay front line employees lower wages and cutting hours to part-time status. Well, you get what you pay for. The airlines, in my opinion, aren't on the forefront of attracting young, eager and energetic young professionals to join the ranks of aviation customer service. Then again...work at a ticket counter and deal with the general public interacting with a company (or an industry) that we Americans LOVE to hate? No thanks. Nevertheless, it is an issue that must be addressed because incidents like the one in April will continue and we will all have front row seats on YouTube.
That being said, I applaud United for making swift updates to policies and hopefully the incident is a HUGE wake up call to airlines. Incidentally, the Department of Transportation just released new data last month (March) and according to government data, Southwest is twice as likely to bump you off your flight than United.
PS. If I am on a flight and someone threatens to throw me off the plane because it's oversold, my response will be "whenever you're feelin' froggy...just leap."
It’s true what has been said “nothing in life is free”. However, there are a few things to consider if your budget is tight but you still want to include travel in 2009. If you have decided to not “stay local”, then here are the biggest expenditures: airfare, hotel, car rental, and food. That being said, if you are open to new ideas and destinations, plan a trip based on where you can get the biggest discount.
Figure out and round up all of your frequent flyer or reward programs information. Find out if you are eligible for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, etc. What are you saving them for? You can't line your casket with them!
Look into deals-especially package deals. A lot of reputable companies put together travel packages to save you time and money. They buy the product in bulk (just like buying ten gallons of chicken stock at Costco) and then they pass the savings on to you. Due to the slumping economy, A LOT of hoteliers are offering deep discounts.
Airlines have a myriad of financial issues, so they too are offering great deals to destinations. My particular favorite is the companion ticket - a family of four can save big money if you shop around for them.
Every place in America (and most in the world) have an official tourism bureau. Once you have selected a destination, call the official Convention & Visitors Bureau and ask them “what’s free”. You’d be surprised at the number of activities you and your travel mates can take part in that doesn’t cost one red penny.
Keep an eye on the souvenir purchases. For parents, I always recommend buying their children little notepads and call it their birthday wish list. While on vacation, tell the children to pick out things they would like for their birthday. This is especially helpful at theme parks.
Eat a huge breakfast. Breakfast food is very cheap (for the most part) and it helps cut down on all the snack-food purchases throughout the day. Skip the booze. I love to tip ‘um back just as much as the next guy. But if you are trying to cut down on expenses, then cut out or limit the restaurant alcohol purchases.
I am not suggesting you pitch a tent in the driveway and call it travel, but I do want you to understand that even if you are trying to save a couple of bucks, you can still explore new places (to you) in this world without missing a mortgage payment.
I really don't care that the Virgin America brand is going to go by way of the McDLT, and neither should you. Let me be clear...I care about what Sir Richard Branson is doing (as he started the airline in 2004) and the fate of Virgin America employees, but the brand...nope, I don't care.
Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America in 2016 for 2.6 Billion and earlier this week announced that it would retire the brand and fold the planes, schedules, routes and people into the Alaska brand. With this purchase, Alaska is now the fifth largest carrier in the United States. Folks, at the end of the day, this is America, the land of the free. I say let the market decide. Anguish and sadness about the merger? Yes. Protests in the streets? Not so much. Why you ask? Because cool lighting, hip uniforms and in-seat food ordering just don't matter as much to passengers as the industry would like to think. PRICE...usually wins the war. On time arrivals and departures and not crashing is usually at the top of the list when it comes to commercial aviation. VALUE for dollars spent ranks right up there too, with those of us searching for a convenient and affordable way to get from point A to point B without having to walk there.
So, the sky is the limit! If you are so distraught, then I say start your own airline and see how easy it is. Even the great (and I do mean GREAT) couldn't stop the churning business of selling seats on plans that GO where people want to go.
Am I too harsh here? No disrespect to all parties involved; I care more about the general flying public than I do the color of the livery. Thank you Alaska Airlines for making a potentially all-upside decision for the majority of consumers.
On February 16, 2017, Delta Airlines announced it would resume serving freshly-prepared, complimentary meals in economy class for selected transcontinental flights.
So why do this? Because airline customers are a fickle bunch. The perception of the flying public is that airlines "took away" meals, free checked bags etc. Delta needs to remain competitive and this move is a clear shot across the wing at retaining and gaining new economy class passengers from rivals such as Southwest, United and American.
According to their press release release, “We are all about making our Main Cabin experience the best it can be for our customers and offering free, high quality meals is a big part of that experience,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s Senior Vice President – In-Flight Service. “When we tested this concept, our customers loved it and appreciated it so we are implementing in our most strategic markets."
Does this mean their economy fares will increase on these routes? Not necessarily. Airline revenue management is complicated the airlines have a lot of data to analyze. Think of it this way, every seat on every flight everyday is like a piece of rotting fruit. The minute that flight takes off, those unsold seats will never exist again, hence the rotting fruit analogy. Therefore, airlines are compelled to sell every seat at just about any price.
The in-flight experience is something airlines are working extremely hard to perfect in the complex and ever-changing world of air travel. More leg room, free checked bags, meals, beverages, snacks, in-flight entertainment are all part of the mix. Lets face it, they can't make the planes go faster or change the weather so making the in-flight experience as comfortable (or as affordable) as possible is really the only area for competitive growth.
I applaud Delta for this move and their attempt at making forward strides in the war of public perception. Like all airlines, Delta needs to be profitable but I also believe they have a responsibility to encourage us to travel. We need the airlines to whisk us away to far of places! So hopefully moves like this will inspire other domestic carriers to follow suit. Read the full release here.
However, I'm also here to remind YOU the traveling public to respect and marvel in the invention of modern day aviation. If you want the airlines to make flying "glamorous" again, then we have to do our part. Save the flip flops for the beach, wear an upscale casual outfit, make up, brush your hair and teeth and wear comfortable yet smart footwear. Be extra kind to the flight attendants and respect their part of the equation. And for the love of crying Pete, don't try to jam too much of your crap in the overhead bins!
And...enjoy your FREE meal in economy on Delta!
Do you have comment or a question...leave it in the comment section below.
A recent online survey was completed of commercial airline pilots, and the results were a little unsettling. According to the results, a decent percentage of the men and women at the stick suffer from some form of depression. This is not good news for us, the flying public, although not really a cause for alarm when you consider the numbers. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are roughly 104,000 commercial airline pilots in the United States. And the survey results were from roughly 3,500 respondents. Never the less, I am always quick to defend flight attendants as they are tasked with the awesome responsibility of taking care of John Q Public at 35,000 feet. But hang on for one second to consider the brave men and women who perform a task for the love of flight. Every pilot (commercial or otherwise) with whom I've ever spoken has always been quick to tout their love of flight. Essentially, they are most comfortable in the sky. Pretty cool if you stop to think about it. And like any other career, they are faced with the same personal challenges we all experience. While we are on the subject, I decided to take a flying lesson to get a better understanding of what it's like to fly and let me just say...I was scared to death and loved every minute of it. We made a video so feel free to take a look.
So this survey reminds us that airline pilots are people too. They perform a job for an honest wage. So, the next time you see one, or the next time you step onto a plane, take a second to say "hello" not just to the flight attendants but those on the flight deck. Give 'um a "thank you" or "have a great flight" on your way to your seat. A word of appreciation may just be exactly what that aviator needs.
You can read the full survey here.