This week, Erik visits with Lauren from the New Orleans CVB, and a visit with Taylor Spellman from the Travel and Tourism Bureau of Roanoke, Virginia. Listen below, and/or subscribe via iTunes and/or Google Play.
For a week in March of this year, my office was located on the Carnival Pride. This is a passenger cruise ship currently operating 6-night itineraries to the Bahamas out of Baltimore, MD. This was the first time I stepped foot on this ship and I was impressed. This ship was put to sea in 2002 and by today’s competitive comparison, The Pride would be considered a smaller ship. However, it still easily carries more than 2,000 passengers and about 1,000 crew. So... quaint and yet still a massive ship that cuts through the ocean waves at an impressive speed of 21 knots.
This ship’s crew was the first of many joys I discovered on board. They were genuinely interested in providing an amazing vacation for every guest. My production crew and I were on board to shoot stand ups for Beyond Your Backyard (the nationally syndicated television series I host for public broadcasting stations) and so while it was work for us, it was fun work surrounded by a staff who seemed to love their jobs. The senior officers with whom we had the pleasure of meeting socially were amazing. They were gracious and accommodating at every turn.
Our itinerary was to take us to Carnival's private island, Nassau, and then on to Freeport. However, due to a sick passenger and some bad weather, the captain avoided rough seas and took us to Port Canaveral for our first port of call. Most guests I spoke to understood the change and took it in stride. Of course, there will always be a few complainers but I am so glad we dropped in on Port Canaveral. It just so happened that on the day we were there, we got to witness a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center.
I have always advised staying in a balcony cabin or better when cruising. On this trip, because the balcony cabins were all occupied, the video crew and I stayed in ocean view cabins on deck one and found the accommodations to be lovely. Our cabin attendant Ryan was especially awesome!
While on board, I got a haircut and a manicure. No time for a massage but plenty of time to try out the gym and most of the restaurants. I don’t want to dwell on this point, but the food on board was fantastic. I especially enjoyed the Blue Iguana Cantina at both breakfast and lunch. Also, the Main Dining Room was a stand-out for both the food quality and the gracious service. The guys that took care of us were absolutely perfect. They understood that for us, dinner was a time to relax, have a little wine and decompress from the day’s shoot. They knew exactly how to take care of us.
What didn’t I like? It’s a tricky subject because the crew and I were there for work and not really evaluating the experience as a vacation thrill seeker. But I wasn’t all that impressed with the buffet. There, I said it.
I am so glad we partnered with Carnival for this trip. If you have yet to sail with them or if it’s been awhile, then I suggest you get moving and let Carnival introduce (or reintroduce) you to the fun that can all be yours at sea!
If you would like, you and yours can travel with yours truly in March of 2019 on a six day Caribbean itinerary on Carnival's newest ship The Carnival Horizon. More details to come, so be sure to become an "Erik Insider" to get the latest information and join us!
In this episode of the Erik the Travel Guy podcast, Erik ofers some tips on acquiring and protecting your passport. You'll also learn the latest TSA screening policies, and a visit with Ellie Westman Chin of Visit Franklin, Tennessee. Listen below, via iTunes or your favorite podcast service!
Recently, I was flying from New York City to Nashville and was enjoying my "TSA Pre Check" expedited line. At the moment of truth (the X ray machine), I noted the screeners were asking passengers to remove snacks from their bags and place them in those convenient grey bins. I honestly didn't think much of it. First the shoes, the liquids, the laptops, the outerwear and NOW they've come for the snacks. However, this happened again at another airport a couple of days later so I decided to do some digging.
Here's a Washington Post article highlighting some of the hand-ringing.
This is NOT a new policy. It was a recommendation made by the TSA to its airports and screeners in an effort to avoid a manual, time-consuming search. Apparently the X Ray machines have a hard time deciphering a plastic explosive from a protein bar. And, if you stop to think about it, it makes sense. However, the public's response has been less-than understanding. I spoke with Lisa Farbstein from the the TSA and the recommendation seems pretty straight-forward.
"As part of its counter terrorism efforts, TSA continuously enhances and adjusts security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats. TSA’s top priority is to protect the traveling public, and every policy and security procedure in place is designed to mitigate threats to passengers and the aviation sector – which we know our adversaries continue to target. Adjustments to screening procedures are a necessary part of operations and TSA does so in the most efficient and effective way possible while maintaining a positive passenger experience."
I say, let it go.
The TSA is responsible for keeping us safe in the the airport and on planes. They have to stay one step ahead of the evil-doers. Their polices recommendations and practices are not arbitrary. As a matter of fact (according to the TSA), The TSA screens more than TSA screens 4.9 million carry-on items for explosives and other prohibited items every day!
My flights are usually North American which means I don't carry a lot of (or any other than mints and gum) "snacks" through security. The same goes for when I travel with my children...who seem to snack on an almost constant basis.
If you must fly with snacks, I suggest you purchase them on the plane or at the airport after security. Some in the travel industry refer to the time we spend after security and before you board your plane "the golden hour". If you MUST bring them from home, place all snacks in a clear zip lock bag for easy removal and placement in a bin.
No need to fret, contemplate or complain on Social Media, its just a safety precaution.
My two cents.
"My kinda town," as Sinatra used to sing... Chicago, Illinois, and the surrounding sites and attractions are on tap for this week's Erik the Travel Guy podcast. Join Erik and J.D. as they discuss the positive, life-changing power of travel, with some tips and ideas for the Fourth of July holiday. Plus, the myths and facts surrounding everyone's favorite uninvited travel guest, the bedbug. Listen below!
In this episode, Erik offers tips on how to make the most of a one-day Disney vacation, talks with author Gary Sikorski about his book 101 Things to Do in Key West, and meets Patricia Washington, CEO of the Tourism Bureau for Alexandria, Virginia.
This week, Erik checks in on Key West, Florida in the wake of last year's hurricane, chats with travel correspondent Roger Lewis about a recent mews-making airline "incident," and visits with comedian and travel enthusiast Eddie Brill.
Hello from 31,000 feet! Today I am on my way to a five-day trip that will take me to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago. As I look out my American Airlines window, I’m still moved by moving 450 miles an hour above the clouds. It gives me time to reflect... and share my thoughts with you.
2018 is underway and I am so excited to have gotten back on the road for another year of exploring this big world we live in. 2017 was an excellent year for me personally and professionally and 2018 is going to be even better. In the now-famous words of Joey Tribiani from “Friends”, I ask, “How YOU doin’?” I’m curious because if travel is NOT part of your plans this year, then I am kindly suggesting you get it on your radar. I’ve built an entire platform dedicated to touting the benefits of travel. But I, perhaps like you, am also a responsible father, brother, son, friend and CEO of my company. This means I owe it to a lot of people (including myself) to make fiscally responsible decisions. What I am saying is that while I strongly believe in the positive power of travel, I also believe you should be able to afford to travel. Please do not spend money you don’t have to take a vacation in the hopes it will cure some or all that ails you... it won’t. Instead, take a vacation for which you can afford to pay cash. I assure you, the entire experience will be so much more pleasant. In this new year, start with a blank piece of paper and decide where you’d like to go, then marry that with your schedule and financial resources. If that means you have to push off the trip for another year, great! But now you can make a travel savings plan and set a course to stick to. Perhaps you could use a portion of your tax refund to put toward that travel savings plan. Or, scale back in other luxuries in order to take a vacation of a lifetime. Personally, I do the very same thing. As of the publish date of this column, I know where, when and how much my personal vacations are going to be/cost for 2018. It gives me financial goals to attain, peace of mind and a roadmap to follow. The added benefit is, by having this plan in place, I can focus even more on my work, which, as may have guessed, I love.
On a side note, support your local PBS station and give them a couple of bucks. You’ll then become a member of PBS which gives you member-level access to PBS Passport. I mention this because my new TV series “Beyond Your Backyard” debuts this Spring and I don’t want you to miss it. We’ve been shooting episodes since last fall and I am so excited to show you the fruits of our passionate labor. Shameless promotion!
Time and time again, I have said I love to travel and I am on a mission to get you traveling more often, staying longer and experiencing the potentially life-changing positive power of travel. And if you heed my inspirational words or videos, then you too will find yourself (most likely) in need of an answer to the following question: Where are we going to stay? According to the American Lodging Association there are 5,000,000 hotel and motel rooms to choose from in the United States alone. You read it right; six zeros; five million. That’s a lot! You may also be wondering if a vacation rental, B&B or Air B&B could be the right option. I wouldn’t dare speculate on which option is best for YOU; that’s up to you. But I would like to offer my advice.
If I have a choice, I stay in a hotel or motel. Tried and true brands who have stood the test of time usually have been able to do so for a reason. Meaning, they have earned a right to still be offering rooms at a fair price. The reasons I prefer hotels/motels over vacation rentals or Air B&Bs are pretty basic. Reliability, safety, cleanliness and amenities.
First, I travel a lot so I like earning points with brands I stay at most frequently. This may not apply to you, so let’s leave that off the table for now. By staying at a known brand, I am hedging my bets that I will ACTUALLY be getting what I paid for when I arrive. Brand standards are pretty stringent, so even if you are a franchised property, being a part of that brand (think Marriott, Hilton or IHG) comes with rigorous inspections and compliance. Granted, not all franchise-owned properties are created equal, but in my opinion, it’s a step in the right direction.
Safety is also a big concern of mine when I’m traveling. Security systems, working fire alarms and tourist-friendly neighborhoods are all factors to consider. Hotel brands are in the business of making their guests happy and keeping them safe. This means they have skin in the game and if, in the unlikely event, something goes wrong, they have more to lose than the causal lodging enthusiast.
Cleanliness is a huge one for me. Bed Bugs, stained sheets, rings around the toilet or showers, dirty carpets, insects or rodents and other disgusting details lurking in the shadows (most of which are invisible to the naked eye) can ruin a good night’s sleep and/or your entire vacation. Hotel brands have strict cleanliness standards. Of course, they don’t always abide by them, but at least they are in place. They also have practices and procedures in place to address the occasional cleanliness issue.
Amenities and services are also a factor in my lodging decision. I like knowing what is available to me when I check in. Minibar, snacks, laundry, dry cleaning, concierge, ironing board, hair dryer, cocktail lounge, reliable internet, safe parking and valet are all services/amenities I may require for a comfortable stay. When you stay OUTSIDE of a known brand, these items/services are sometimes hard to come by, not available or simply inconsistently offered across the board. Of course, you may not care about any of these items, but when I’m traveling with my family, something is bound to come up and I want to solve the issue efficiently and cost-effectively.
Traditional B&Bs are another matter to consider altogether. These business owners DO have skin in the game but we’ll save that discussion for another post.
I’m not against Air B&Bs. There are plenty of Air B&B owners who DO treat their home as a business and I applaud them for doing so. I am simply offering my cautionary tale as I want YOU to have an amazing trip and mitigate as many risk factors as I can think of before you step foot outside your house.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!