Dear Travel Truth Seeker:

The three largest categories of web site visits account for almost 80% of all of the hours spent by Americans on the internet: They are Gambling – Pornography – and Travel. We can’t do anything about the first two, but we can do our best to offer one travel site, perhaps the only one in existence, that does not insult your intelligence.

You don’t want flashing lights and phony prices all designed to lure you in. You don’t want a song and dance. You don’t want Blah Blah from PR firms disguised as travel writers touting their products, and you certainly don’t want some commission-based travel agent calling you. You don’t want to filter through hours of travel drivel to find a kernel of truth. And you certainly don’t want your travel questions interspersed with meaningless chatter from self-proclaimed “critics” whose credentials you cannot certify, many of them paid shills using e-mail aliases.

Traveltruth and our other ad-free consumer travel sites are something different. This is a place you can feel comfortable visiting. You can count on the fact that no one here is trying to sell you anything. You can assume your name will never be used or given to any advertiser or marketer. In fact, unless you choose to reach out to us, we do not wish to intrude on your privacy in any way. You will never receive any unsolicited communication from us. Ever.

This is the only consumer-driven travel site that will not accept advertising or money from  advertisers or suppliers. We think it is impossible for any travel site to really be honest with the consumer if it is accepting payment from the very people it is reviewing.

We’ve been in business for thirty years, our phone numbers are unlisted, we’ve won all the awards and accolades that count for anything in this industry. We do not need to use this site to troll for new business. You will, in fact, need to reach out to us and complete a Profile if you ever wish to initiate a long-term relationship with our firm. Many applicants are turned down.

In our current environment, the travel consumer is bombarded by misinformation and outright lies on a daily basis. Bait-and-switch “from $499” ads are the rule – not the exception. A half-inch is defined as “extra legroom” and a moldy hot tub may be a “luxurious spa”. Google virtually any travel-related topic, from hotel properties to destinations and you are smothered in a sea of tens of thousands, perhaps millions of ads disguised as information. No one seems willing to help. Everyone wants your credit card number. We hope that traveltruth.com is just the first step toward changing that perception.

Do we have an exclusive on the “truth” about travel? Of course not. But we do have the ability to tell-it-like-it-is based on our unique experiences as travel writers, travel consultants, and travel suppliers. And we speak from a position of strength with a loyal cadre of discriminating clients nationwide who keep us fully booked. Finally – we have no advertisers – by design. We answer to no one. This is not a “for profit” web site. There is nothing for sale here. That is why we are free to just tell you the truth about travel.

This is traveltruth.com


Our credo at traveltruth is simple. We wish to be the most unadulterated, truthful, and industry knowledgeable travel site in the world.


Travel Q&A



HOTEL SITUATION ON ANGUILLA

Q – We love the island of Anguilla and have been going there for years since your firm was kind enough to plan a vacation for our family after Cuisinart opened. We are wondering if you could update us on the status of the best properties since Irma?  Thought we would inquire on this public site as we know there are others interested. 

A –  We do have that information on our Private Client site but happy to update the latest information here:

Belmond Cap Juluca – Had been closed for renovations during storm – scheduled to open late 2018.

Cuisinart and The Reef by Cuisinart – Estimated re-opening is September 2018

Four Seasons and Residences – Currently scheduled to re-open April 2018

Malliouhana – Plans to re-open in April.

IS UBER HALF THE COST OF AN AIRPORT TAXI AT MAJOR US AIRPORTS?

Q –  As a rather frequent business traveler who is not, admittedly, tuned in to the latest apps and services, I was surprised when a colleague described her  extremely positive experiences with Uber. Wondering what you think of the service generally and whether or not it is true, as she has told me, that they are half the price of normal taxis to and from the airport? Really enjoy this site but wish there was much more information that would be helpful to business travelers.Are you planning on increasing your business travel coverage?

A – There are a few variables here that make your question difficult to answer with any degree of precision. Some of these have to do with the specific airport, whether or not you are using regular Uber or Uber Black, and the time of day you will be traveling. (Uber gets really expensive about 1:00am.)  Money Magazine did a survey of comparative fares and found that taxis are actually less expensive than Uber at Boston’s Logan, and New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports. But in all other cases, Uber beats taxi fares and you have a 17% better chance that your driver showered that morning.

Uber, and their competitor Lyft, are fine if saving money is your goal. We think that people who use these services do so because they are unaware of just how dangerous a ride tot he airport is statistically. It is considerably more likely to cause your death than a terrorist attack abroad. Placing your life in the hands of a driver who has “online likes” is ridiculous and only those who don;t understand how much online likes and reviews can be manipulated would place any faith in them. The Uber Black program is more expensive but it has the better vehicles and the more professional drivers. Because they are using their own vehicles, we place more faith in Uber than the average big-city taxi driver. That would be our last choice. You will find some comparative pricing in the chart above. If the travel industry and the travel press really wanted to save lives we would shout this from the highest rooftop “Driving in some strangers car or taxi, here or overseas,  is the most dangerous thing you do when you travel”. Choose carefully.

Finally, I am afraid that we have little interest in business travelers. If you are late for your meeting in Omaha, you will survive. Warren will see you another time. But if someone screws up your vacation, the time of the year you worked those other fifty weeks to enjoy, well then we take that personally. There are some wonderful web sites dedicated to business flyers. Our favorite is “View from the Wing”. But we will continue to devote all of our attention in our media group and our travel planning consultancy  to the upscale and discriminating worldwide vacation traveler.

DOES A CHANGE OF ITINERARY RESULT IN SOME ‘INCONVENIENCE MONEY”?

Q – Our cruise on Royal Caribbean has been changed from an Eastern to a Western Caribbean itinerary. I am not really thrilled with the ports and wonder if we are entitled to some sort of major discount for this change in itinerary. It wasn’t what we signed on for and we didn’t cause the hurricane. Don’t you think we are entitled to an “Inconvenience Refund”?  I can;t believe how these cruise lines hide behind Irma to make all sorts of changes.

A – Yes, it really seems unfair. Why weren’t you given the choice of sailing to islands that were unaffected by the devastation when you could have kept to your original itinerary. Of course if you had, you would not find any port tours operating and your only option ashore would have been to help with the rescue plans in some way. In fact, Royal Caribbean sent ships to San Juan and rescued thousands.

But here’s the thing. Since you didn’t cause Hurricane Irma and you will admit that Royal Caribbean didn’t cause it, we think you should find the person responsible and have them assist you with some “inconvenience money.”

 

FLYING NEXT SUMMER IN JULY: IS HEAT AN ISSUE WITH PLANES?

Q –   Wow – what a site. Really appreciate the opportunity to learn all this stuff in such a neat way with no sales pressure. My question has to do with the summer just past and all of the heat issues. As we will be flying out of New Orleans next July, we are wondering how heat can affect flights and if they cancel them when it gets near or over 100 degrees?

A – High temps make it necessary for planes to reach a higher than normal speed to take off in extremely hot weather.  This has to be accomplished even though their thrust performance is limited by the light air. So the thing to understand is that a plane’s ability to take off is a combination of several things which must be measured by the pilot mathematically. These include air density, the design of the particular aircraft being flown, the length of the runway and the flight’s weight at take-off. If you look at these factors you will see that only only can be controlled and that is weight. So in really hot weather, either fuel, cargo, or passengers must be removed from the plane. The first is a safety issue, the second is highly profitable, which leaves fewer passengers as the only viable alternative.  The number of flights that have been “heat restricted” has been steadily climbing at busy airports like LaGuardia in New York and Washington D.C.’s Reagan National. Both airports have rather short runways, a safety issue that should have been corrected years ago.

The airport with some of the most serious heat-related take-off issues are Phoenix and Denver in the States and Dubai, Hong Kong, and Bangkok overseas. Projections into the future see weight restrictions increasing by as much as 30% in the next two decades. Long distance aircraft like the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will see the greatest number of passengers bumped for weight issues because the Dreamliner is used on longer routes requiring full fuel tanks. The single-aisle jets like the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320 will be impacted less with the exception of the short runway airports mentioned above.

THERE IS LOTS OF NEWS ABOUT DAMAGED ISLANDS – IS THERE A LIST OF UNDISTURBED ISLANDS POST HURRICANE IRMA?

Q – We are already planning for our daughter’s wedding in mid-June. But the recent storms have created a great deal of confusion regarding the status of the various islands and major resorts in the Caribbean. Do you have any information that might help us?

A – We are pleased to give you a list compiled by the reporters at Travel Weekly Magazine. If you Google Travel Weekly, the highly-respected industry magazine, you will find an island-by-island analysis along with status updates of the major hotels on each island. The reality is that the travel industry press generally provides far more detailed information that the popular consumer travel press. Here is the current update. Warm congratulations to your daughter and your family. 

The following islands were outside the paths of Irma and Maria and suffered little or no damage from the storms:

Aruba

Barbados

Belize

Bonaire

The Cayman Islands

Curacao

Guyana

Grenada

Haiti

Jamaica

Martinique

Saba

St. Eustatius

St. Lucia

St. Vincent

Suriname

Trinidad and Tobago

 

 

WILL THIS DRIVER’S LICENSE WORK FOR ID?

Q –  Good Morning – while searching Airline fares I came across your website – it looks like it contains a wealth of information.  I’ll be sure to refer to it in the future.  I have a question concerning  the proper identification for a trip my wife and I are planning this fall from CT to San Antonio.

When I renewed my  Connecticut driver’s license in May of this year, I was informed of a new regulation that required me to bring my birth certificate in order to obtain a license that could serve as a proper ID.   I was not aware of this. This did not prevent me from renewing my license, complete with photo and all – but because I did not have my birth certificate with me and I didn’t want to return another day (and wait in line for another 1.5 hours) I opted to renew my license that contains the line: ” NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION”. Here’s my question.  Will the license as it now  reads prevent me from boarding a plane?  If so, I do have the option of going back to the DMV before my trip to obtain a new license-  What is your advice?    Thank you for your help.

A –  TSA rules are getting stricter by the week. By all means pay another visit to the funsters at the DMV. Since they are explicitly stating that the license you have may not be used as a photo ID, it is essentially worthless in terms of  getting you past security. Our recommendation is that you bring some bocce balls with you. We like to organize a game while waiting to hear our number called.

 

GOING TO CHINA AND NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GIFTING

Q – Our travel agent here in northern Virginia, has fixed us up with a really nice tour program created by a company called WildChina. I wonder if you know anything about this company? We’ve kind of put our faith in this agent but we are paying close to $1000 per day  for a 16-Day program and we want to make sure we are in the best hands.

Our primary reason for contacting you has to do with some advice we received from friends who have just returned from a tour of China’s most famous cities. They have told us that their guide told them in Beijing that they should have brought cans of face cream – that the Chinese really like it  as a gift from travelers. Tourists are said to give out red tins to all the guides, policemen, baggage handlers etc. they meet. What exactly should we bring along – our TA knows nothing about this. 

Finally, a personal question. We’ve just paid a refundable deposit and we are wondering how much our agent really knows about Chinese culture etc. Would you consider taking over this booking if that could be arranged?

A – If we thought your travel agent was misleading you or not up to the task, we might help you. But we suspect you have an excellent agent and it would be inappropriate for us to get involved at this point. We think that WildChina is an excellent choice for private touring in China for those who want an insider’s view, They are particularly strong in some of the rural regions of the country that have, only recently, opened up to tourists. The founder, Mei Zheng, is a native of Yunnan Province and is a Harvard MBA. Her new book is called “In Search of Dali with a Bag of Ham”. The case study  of her company’s success is required reading at Harvard.  We think you are in excellent hands and your agent will direct the kind of guides and touring WildChina will provide. They have won numerous industry awards and they work with Virtuoso and several other well-known premier agency groups. A cost of $1000 per day strikes us as about right as long as it does not also include accommodations. For top-tier private guides and arrangements travelers should expect to pay between $1500-$2000 per day per couple.

Your friends are a bit confused about the skin cream advice. You don;t need to bring face cream to China to distribute. They have plenty and, you will note, the Chinese take great pride in their complexions. This story may have originated in a Wall Street Journal story that talked about the habit of Chinese tourists, particularly those traveling in Egypt, who bring dozens of small gifts of Tiger Balm and other soothing lotions to give out in Lieu of tips. But this is not recommended for American tourists. The best way to show your appreciation in China in a short, sealed, handwritten note with cash inside and, perhaps, a photo of your family.

 

TRAVEL TO NORTH KOREA: POSSIBLE?

Q – We have tried to travel to many of the countries on the “Not Advised” list over the past decade including Iran and Iraq. I am thinking I would like to visit North Korea just to get my passport stamped and to stay for a few days. How can I best do this?

A-  It is against current US State Department current regulations and it is a bad idea on every level. If we knew we would, quite honestly, never share the information.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THE AMAN RESORT IN FEBRUARY DESPITE ZIKA VIRUS?

Q –   We have a bit of an unusual situation. We want to go to a Caribbean island in February. We trust that the Turks & Caicos will be built up again and we are looking at staying at the Aman resort, which is quite isolated. We’ve twice stayed at Aman’s in Asia and absolutely love the serenity and the spa orientation, along with great food and service. 

There is availability for a ten-night stay and the rates are fine. The issue is that my wife will be three  months pregnant if all goes according to plans. It seems that there have been some cases of Zika on the island but we’re being told the hotel sprays every day and mosquitos should not be an issue. Do you think you we will be OK to move forward with these arrangements.

A – The first thing we would suggest is that you ask whoever is telling you this to put it  in a legally binding document. Make it clear in that document that you will be entitled to a multi-million dollar settlement should there be any medical issues based on your decision to stay on the island. Then, when you get the document, tear it up in front of whoever hands it to you and explain that the health of your wife and newborn baby comes first. 

They have had Zika virus in the Turks & Caicos. There are serious warnings about travel to that, and many of the Caribbean islands, if you are pregnant. You must not even consider this vacation. The rule is quite simple – if you are pregnant or have any possibility of getting pregnant, avoid travel to those islands that have a Zika-virus bearing mosquito population. Don’t fool around with this. 

Because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects, pregnant women should not travel to the areas below. Partners of pregnant women and couples considering pregnancy should know the risks to pregnancy and take prevention steps. All travelers should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission during and after the trip.

Africa: AngolaBeninBurkina-FasoBurundiCameroonCape VerdeCentral African RepublicChadCongo (Congo-Brazzaville)Côte d’IvoireDemocratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)Equatorial GuineaGabonGambiaGhanaGuineaGuinea-BissauKenyaLiberiaMaliNigerNigeriaRwandaSenegalSierra LeoneSouth SudanSudanTanzaniaTogoUganda

Asia: BangladeshBurma (Myanmar)CambodiaIndiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaMaldivesPakistanPhilippinesSingaporeThailandTimor-Leste (East Timor)Vietnam

The Caribbean: AnguillaAntigua and BarbudaArubaThe BahamasBarbadosBonaireBritish Virgin IslandsCubaCuraçaoDominicaDominican RepublicGrenadaHaitiJamaicaMontserratthe Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territorySaba;Saint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint MartinSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSint EustatiusSint MaartenTrinidad and TobagoTurks and Caicos IslandsUS Virgin Islands

Central AmericaBelizeCosta RicaEl SalvadorGuatemalaHondurasNicaraguaPanama

North America: Mexico

The Pacific Islands: FijiMarshall IslandsMicronesiaPalauPapua New GuineaSamoaSolomon IslandsTonga

South America: ArgentinaBoliviaBrazilColombiaEcuadorFrench GuianaGuyanaParaguayPeruSurinameVenezuela

We have listed the countries where Zika is an on-going issue. Somehow, tourism promoters and travel agents rarely talk about Zika anymore. It is a serious reality for pregnant women and, as you can see above, it is a widespread medical phenomenon. 

WHERE WILL THE NEXT ‘WORLD’S LONGEST” FLIGHT ROUTE LIKELY BE?

Q –  I have a somewhat perverse interest in long flight statistics. I can tell you who has the longest flights currently (Singapore) and I pretty much know the schedules. I’ve flown two previous “longest routes” but I am anxious to start planning for something new. Is there a longest ever route coming out soon that you can discuss

A – This is all a part of current airline planning and most of it is kept quite confidential for competitive reasons. We can tell you that Boeing is working on a longer range 777x  and the Airbus 35OULR.

The airline really pushing this development is Qantas which wants to initiate the longest flight ever, from Sydney to London in a projected 20 hours and 20 minutes, according to USA Today. The goal is to achieve this distance capability in new aircraft by 2022. If the planes can be delivered with the capabilities Qantas is requesting, the aircraft would be able to fly non-stop New York to Sydney in just about 18 hours. At Qantas, by the way, management refers to this endeavor as “Project Sunrise.”

If you want to buy a ticket before these planes are built, look to Qantas’ upcoming service from Perth to London. This 17-hour flight will cover more than 9,000 miles. You should add it to your list. 

IS THERE AN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE THE INSIDER’S PREFER?

Q –  As I read your various sites and the great industry information you all provide, one nagging question seems to keep popping up for this rather frequent flyer (business and a minimum of three overseas vacations per year). Which airline should we be flying to eliminate hassles, lousy service, and awful connection percentages like JFK and O’Hare? I have the feeling that you have a favorite airline that you fly and wonder if you might share this information with your readers?  Which airline are the “cool” people choosing when they fly to Europe? As a general comment, we would like to see much more on this site about airline quality and policies.

A – There is a certain percentage of fliers who will choose Air France for the quality of their croissants in the morning. But the savvy flier’s choice these days is Air Canada, perhaps the biggest turn-around success story in the industry. Their three international hubs, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal allow Americans to clear US customs in the airport before entering the United States. And fliers from the US do not need to have their checked luggage with them to go through passport control. Changing planes in Canada is just a more convenient process. Talk to one of the frequent flyers who has discovered this secret and they will rave on about the fact that Air Canada has some of the newest aircraft in the sly, that they have invested heavily in high-speed moving sidewalks and baggage belts, and, joy of all joys, extremely nice airport clubs with shower facilities.

Some of Air Canada’s biggest fans tout its fleet of new 777 and 787 Boeing aircraft. Others are really impressed with the airline’s improved Premium Economy section and pricing, a reflection of the dollar’s current strength against the Canadian Dollar. But what we like most about Air Canada is the fact that in all three of its international gateways, arriving and departing flights from the US arrive in the same terminal. This, say the most savvy flyers, can often save a half hour or more off the connection time.

Then there is this …………these Canadians are some of the nicest people on earth and you might run into Justin at the airport.

STARTING TO DO SOME LONG DISTANCE FLYING AND WE HAVE SOME QUESTIONS

Q –   I will be finally taking retirement from he auto manufacturing field in six months. My wife and I are looking forward to a life of at ;east one or two longer international trips per year, assuming there is no wall that will be built to keep us in the country. My wife has two specific questions: Should we be concerned about deep vein thrombosis and, if so, what should we do about it, and should there be a problem with getting off the aircraft in a hurry, is there a safety factor involved in greater seat pitch?  In other words is it safer, in an emergency, to be seated in Business Class?

A – Thank you for such a fun series of questions. We would suggest that you try to run up miles on the best possible airline mileage credit card you can find. You will be happier flying Business Class. Yes, long distance flights increase your chances of thrombosis but the evidence on how this works is still fairly sketchy. You can get deep-vein thrombosis traveling by car, bus, or train. The altitude is not necessarily the causal factor. Wear loose clothing with an elastic waist and really comfortable socks that do not cut off your circulation.  We don’t know about Business Class actually being safer than coach but it is nice, as the aircraft is plummeting, to be offered that final choice of orange juice or champagne.

Speak to your physician about deep-vein thrombosis as your specific condition will dictate the advice your receive. Don’t worry about safety in the air. In fact, sitting on a long-distance flight is one of the safest things you can do on this planet. If you want to worry, think about a strategy to get you safely from the house to the airport. Statistically, that is, by a wide margin, the most dangerous part of your journey.

SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT HIPPO ATTACKS IN TANZANIA AND KENYA?

Q – We will be departing for Tanzania and Kenya next month. I have been watching the pre/post election turnout in Kenya. Everything appears to be calm now. How concerned should we be about spending one day in Nairobi before flying home? We are also wondering of the hippo attack earlier this month in Tanzania is the kind of incident that is under-reported by the press. IO can;t seem to find out where this happened. Are there types of incidents under-reported to protect tourism?

A –  We are extremely uncomfortable about your upcoming trip based on the nature of your questions. You really should be in contact with the safari provider, who you have not named, to make certain that all of your concerns and fears have been addressed. Any trip to East or Southern Africa has the potential to literally be the Trip of Your Lifetime but you need to be well prepared by both your travel consultant and your safari company.

Hippos kill an estimated 500 humans per year. They are an extremely dangerous mammal and it is well to respect their space. A 75-year old tourist from Michigan was recently killed on safari in Tanzania, the victim of a hippo attack. . She was a well-respected entrepreneur and it was a highly unusual accident.

Nairobi is a safe place to spend the night provided you are in a secure hotel. We won’t venture an opinion until we know which company has organized your trip and which hotel they are using in Nairobi. 

Neither tourism boards, whose job it is to actively promote tourism, and the safari companies themselves, highlight negative news. There is certainly some under-reporting of these incidents which is one reason that we encourage international travelers to always read several issues of the local newspapers before departure. With Google Translate that is a relatively easy task.

Traveling to Africa is serious business. If you are not prepared to pay to be in the hands of the safest operators utilizing the skills of the best guides, we would suggest you postpone your trip until your financial situation improves. We also suggest that all travelers considering East Africa have a serious conversation with their travel planner regarding the current status of terror group advisories. 

IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR MODULAR SEATING ON AIRPLANES?

Q –  Really love this site but one criticism. You deal a lot with things as they are – not as they might be. As an architect and designer specializing in modular housing, I am intrigued by the potential of the airline industry to develop aircraft that has seating that can be easily converted in minutes to a totally new configuration. Let’s say, for instance, tight seating when a flight is less than two hours but when the next segment is longer the seating changes as new seats are easily placed on a track. Is anyone actually working on this? I’m really curious. Keep up the good work. 

A – It might be fun to get some architect friends and futurists together to do a web site focused on what could be given our current abilities to utilize technology-driven. You would just have to remember that everything in the Airline sector is driven by profit per seat per mile. Passenger comfort is never the prime motivator for design.

Actually, Airbus has been working on a new modular system that can transform an aircraft from high-density seating to luxury with lounges and stand-up bars in the time it takes to do a normal turn–around. This project was being run out of Airbus’ innovation lab called A3 but they have now gone public with the project and named it ‘transpose”. The goal is to essentially change a re-design of the seating and interior layout on an aircraft, a process that normally takes three weeks on average, to allow completion within a half hour. This can be achieved by using modular everything and simply sliding out and sliding in seating and other materials . It would be similar to swapping out cargo in the hold – a process that already exists. The exciting this about this project is that it does not require the design of new aircraft. The designs are being developed to use existing aircraft. This project is currently thought to be anywhere from five to ten years away from final application. But we are skeptical. It will cost a great deal and we’re not sure it will greatly enhance revenue since most current seating plans are already designed for near-maximum capacity goals.

GOING TO CUBA ON AN OCEANIA CRUISE: PRECAUTIONS?

Q – Although we sense your advice has been to delay travel to Cuba for a few years, we have decided to join my brother-in-law and his family on a cruise on Oceania to Cuba. Our travel agent feels we will be safe but we are wondering if there are any precautions or particularly, things to bring along just in case. 

A –  Just two specifics – make certain that you don’t touch the tap water. Bottled water only. If you are drinking in a bar it is likely, but not guaranteed, that the ice in your drinks is filtered. The most important precaution is to put together a small case filled with a travel medical supplies. We’d like you to bring your favorite form of aspirin, an anti- diarrea medication, as well as something for constipation.  Also try to locate an anti-mosquito spray with deet. Other than that, you’re good to go.

IS TRUMP RIGHT ABOUT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL IN THE UNITED STATES?

Q – I read a piece about Trump where he was quoted as saying that “while every passenger is boarding with GPS in their pocket, our air traffic system still runs on radar.”  We fly four or five times a year. Is this an example of fake news or should we be worried”? I just assume as a leading country we have the best air traffic technology. I don’t think that teenage video gamers are running our flight systems.

A – Actually that might be an improvement. Trump is essentially correct. All you have to do to understand the current technology is look at the way that air traffic controllers hand over a plane flying from one sector to another. Towers in US airports, and you may not believe this, use paper strips to show a plane’s position. Our system runs on radar and is, essentially, a system developed int he mid nineteen forties. We need complete modernization but let’s at least use “digital slips:”, a system the Canadians have had for the past dozen years. But we’re not going to get modernization. The transition to digital slips has been pushed back and it is now estimated that the FAA will roll it out somewhere around 2015.

Trump has indicated that the air traffic control system in the US ought to be turned over to a nonprofit corporation. It is a solution that might improve the timeline for modernization. 

In the meantime, you might consider flying on Air Canada through Canadian airspace.

WHERE DO I GET SOME OF THIS STUFF?

Q – I have read and re-read this as well as several of your sister sites. Love the information and the attitude. But you are a bit ahead of us readers. In one of your last Q and A’s you said that Korean Air was  a Four-star airline. Really? Well how do I find that out. I want to know the rating of every airline I’m flying. I also want to know about something your referenced in a response about hotel inspection reports. How do I get those as well? I do a ton of international travel for business. Let me know if you need any correspondents – I’d love to add comments from my travels and observations. But, bottom line, if I could know how good my airline is and what my hotel is really like, instead of what TripAssiser says it is, I’d be ahead of the game. Finally, I notice that some of your sites are password-protected and exclusively for your clients. Does that mean that some of the “truth” is held back for those who use your services? 

A – We never print anything from PR firms, writers who receive free trips, or folks wanting to plug some entity with which they are associated. But we would be pleased to share well-written travel reports from our readers with other readers. What we won’t do is open up a dialogue that could quickly go off-road. We aim for honest questions and honest responses. A simple concept really – but since it is non-profit, there aren’t many takers.

We put together our own rankings of the world’s airlines based on industry statistics and reports. We always share this information with our clients. The Hotel Inspection Reports are invaluable. It is a private service available to professional consultants and is unavailable online. Most of the top-tier travel consultants offer these inspection reports to their clients. And yes – we do hold back and we don’t share everything. But you knew that.

OFF TO SEOUL AND NEED SMALL GIFT IDEAS FOR STAFF

Q – This is the coolest site so I come to you with a specific question. I’m flying on Korean Airlines to Seoul for a four-day series of meetings. My first time and I have no idea what to bring back for work colleagues. Is there anything they are famous for or you think would make a nice gift for a workforce mostly int heir thirties and forties.  By the way, how good is Korean. Thanks so much.

A –  Korean Airlines currently enjoys a four-star rating which places it above the major carriers from the United States. We are definitely recommending you look at cosmetics. Korean women spend approximately double what their American counterparts spent on beauty supplies. They are generally of a high quality and rather affordable. Korean men also far outspend American men when it comes to grooming supplies. Just look for items that are locally popular but unavailable for export. The best area for you to find cosmetics is Myeong-dong, an eight-block area that attracts those seeking skin that feels like butta. 

HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOURSELF AS A FEMALE BUSINESS TRAVELER?

Q – This may be a little out of your areas of expertise but I wonder if you have any advice. I have just accepted a new sales position in my company that will require about 70% domestic travel to major cities throughout the country. Given the Bill O’Reilly debacle, I suppose I am even more concerned about staff entering my room for deliveries etc. I am wondering if you have any advice at all. I am sure there are other readers who have similar concerns. 

A –  This is a serious topic and one that is just starting to be taken seriously by hotels. Try  to determine if there are “female staff only” access rules in place for solo female guests. Some hotels, like the Virgin brand, provide separate areas that can be closed when rooms service or other deliveries are being dropped off. Hyatt hotels has been studying this issue, determining that almost 50% of all single business travelers are women and this number is growing with the arrival of female sales people from China.

At one time, the hotel industry was headed toward the establishment of “female guests only” floors. This is no longer in vogue and is thought to be a dated idea. Women more than men are concerned with security and we have emphasized our belief that no hotel should ever be booked until you are provided with a professional hotel inspection report and an update on security. 

Many female travelers instruct the front desk that only female staff should be given access to their rooms. We believe that corporations have a responsibility to approve upgraded accommodations for single female travelers where that is necessary to ensure a more safe environment.

We always thought it was creepy to see Bill on the TV inside our hotel room, knowing the numerous payoffs and allegations related to sexual misconduct. If it turns out that O’Reilly has now accepted a position as a room service waiter at Marriott, we would suggest asking him to leave the tray outside the door.

HEADED TO MELBOURNE TO PROPOSE – WHERE TO STAY AND DINE?

Q – I am one of your followers in Spain. Although many of your answers seem tilted to Americans, we still find the responses amusing and interesting. Some of the questions really amaze us!

So to my question: I am certain my fiance does not read this blog. I will be in Melbourne, Australia in two weeks. I will only be there on business for two days and my finance will be flying over to join me from Toledo. (ours – not yours). I want to be in a lovely room and pop the question followed by a nice dinner that is at a fun spot with great food but casual. But it is the room that is causing the problem. Would be forever grateful for a recommendation. 

A – Even though you called us a “blog” we’re going to do all possible to help you. Book room # 401 at the Lyall hotel. It is called the “Tattinger Suite”,  a 766 sq. ft. rooftop suite with has two terraces and great sunsets. We would have the hotel book you the nicest possible table at nearby France-Soir. Order the oysters – lots of them.

THE MALDIVES BECKON BUT HOW BEST TO GET THERE?

Q – Based partly on your advise, we are moving up our plans to stay in an over-the-water bungalow in the Maldives. We are frequent Delta flyers and we have some miles with American. We are wondering how we should plan on getting there, Online it looks like a really long haul. Also, advice for a romantic resort with great food and the “bungalows” would be appreciated. Love the site but we want “daily” updates!.

A –  Every situation is different but we would suggest that you not use miles for this trip and fly Emirates into Dubai. Stay a few days on the front or back end in between your flights between Dubai and the Maldives. You will be on a top-rated airline and Dubai is one of the world’s great gateway airports.

You are correct, getting to the Maldives is a bear. You are looking at more than 24 hour of travel time. That is why we think you ought to break it up. Emirates came close to joining United in the Star Alliance but they finally decided they do not need an alliance. Use your miles for something else. If that is not an option if or you and you don’t fly much, look at Delta partner Air France’s schedules. 

We like the 45-villa French resort, Cheval Blanc Randheli. Great food and beautiful location. Don;t be surprised if Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon are sharing the villa next door. 

DOING VIETNAM HOTEL PACKAGE AND WONDERING ABOUT BED BUGS

Q – The little woman and I are off on a land tour in Vietnam we booked with an online agency in the country. It will include two day cruises and four cities beginning in Ho Chi Minh City. We’re excited by my wife is a germophile and wants me to ask you the secrets of checking for bedbugs in hotel rooms. What do you do? We are not staying at the Four, or even the “Three” Seasons. I am sure your followers would appreciate this information as you’ve scared most of us away from hotels of questionable pedigree.

A – We didn’t quite understand how your wife’s “height” enters into your question. We recommend that you follow our Four-Step Bedbug Program:

  1. Pick up the mattresses and look under them paying particular attention to the edges of the box springs.
  2. Literally look under the box spring, a common area of infestation.
  3. Look behind the headboard and try to remove it. Look carefully at the hole where the headboard was fitted. Inspect all edges of the headboard.
  4. Never put any of your clothes in the room’s dresser drawers. Follow our previous advice about cleaning your luggage and keep your clothes in your luggage during your stay. Bring empty tall kitchen bags with ties for your dirty clothes.

Because hotel chains are among the heaviest travel media  advertisers, consumers are rarely given information about this serious and growing problem. It is perfectly appropriate to contact the hotels you have booked to inquire about how often bedding is changed or cleaned.

When you see really low nightly room rates on the various hotel sites, ask yourself where they are cutting back. Housekeeping and security are two of the most frequent answers. And the one unstated but obvious observation is that the lower rate hotels tend to attract those with the highest likelihood of poor hygiene.

We apologize for sounding negative and scaring folks away from cheap hotels. The fact is that the top-tier hotels cannot comment on these issues and we think our readers need to hear it.  

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO JOIN OUR EDITORS ON OUR 2018 SIGNATURE TOUR IN IRELAND


“IRELAND’S BEST COUNTRY HOTELS, CULINARY WONDERS, MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES, AND BEVERAGES OF NOTE”

JUNE 1 – 12, 2018

Please call us for our e-mail brochure at 800 – 445 – 7979 Space is (No Exaggeration) Limited. This 12-Day true luxury program is priced at Euro 8,400 Per Guest 

DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO RENT A CAR AND DO SWEDISH FOOD?-

Q – We are seriously considering taking a ten-day drive somewhere in Sweden, perhaps renting a car in Stockholm. Our idea is to get out and try to find the most beautiful examples of quaint, lovely small towns, the best Swedish cuisine, including a variety of seafood, and a sense of beautiful scenery in a rural setting. I guess we want it all – no tourists, rural, with great restaurants, lots of interesting and diverse stops. We will likely plan this ourselves unless you recommend using an agent. We don;t expect your team to plan the itinerary. Instead, what we are requesting is just a direction to head that might give us the best chance of finding our Swedish nirvana. Thanks for all the excellent information. 

A –  We don’t think you need an agent for this trip. You will likely enjoy planning it yourself and, since you will be hopeful of getting lost, there isn’t much you can screw up in terms of itinerary planning. 

We think you should do the west coast of Sweden, beginning your drive in Gothenburg and heading due north. This route will take you to the part of the country we think you are seeking. And our congratulations for a really good idea. We like your focus. By the way, don’t miss Grebbestad. Our Swedish friends say it is the oyster capital of Scandinavia.

HOW TO LAY OUT A WEEK IN POLAND

Q – My husband and I have been frustrated by the planning for a trip to Poland. We don’t know exactly how to plan such a trip and we don’t know how to design a trip in terms of number of nights in Warsaw versus Krakow. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. We will want to visit Auschwitz outside the city, Figuring just six nights, how should we plans this between the two cities. Thanks so much. We’re in our early seventies and of Polish descent. This is a trip we have to take.

A –  Warsaw was destroyed during the war so most of what you see is rebuilt. True, the old town is rather charming but you are going to discover that Warsaw is really a busy business and shopping center for the country. We would suggest that you arrive in Warsaw, spend two nights and then move on to Krakow for four nights. Krakow is the only major Polish city not destroyed during the War. You will see beautiful original architecture and village life out int he direction of the Tatra Mountains. Auschwitz is best seen as a day trip from Krakow. This trip should be planned by a professional travel consultant, someone you can talk to about your goals for the trip and your personal preferences. Poland is a relatively good value so we would suggest privately-planned touring. Look for a travel firm that is associated with one of the top three consortium groups and ask if they have representative offices within the country. Let us know if you have problems finding the right person and we will refer you to someone in your city.

Continue for more Q&A