Dear Travel Truth Seeker:
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Pick up the mattresses and look under them paying particular attention to the edges of the box springs.
- Literally look under the box spring, a common area of infestation.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.
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.
Q – We are Platinum Amex travelers who have been on more than twenty overseas trips. Now, recently retired, we are trying to work through our list of places we would like to visit off most of the major tourist routes. Right now we are thinking about the Baltics or the former Russian Republics. We’re wondering if there is one destination we should be concentrating on in view of our appreciation for authentic villages, customs, and very, very good food. Sorry to use the term but, like apparently 90% of your followers, we are foodies. Oh, we share your high regard for Bourdain.
A – The really cool travelers are heading off to Georgia. It has everything you are seeking and lays claim to being the birthplace of wine – worth a pilgrimage just for that. The scenery is drop dead gorgeous, the locals are thrilled when Americans show up, and prices are embarrassingly low. Spend at least three nights in Tbilisi and then head out to the country. Be sure to save time for the mountains with cunningly crafted villages perched atop them with sweeping vistas. One of our staff refers to it as “Switzerland at a third of the cost and a quarter of the tourists.”
Q – A little help would be appreciated. We’re New Yorkers in our 30’s and we want to head for Mexico for a week of sun and seafood – though maybe not in that order. We’re probably a bit more price conscious than some of your followers so any information about current food pricing would be appreciated. We like four-star hotels but we always have dinner at five-star restaurants. But seriously – just seafood. neither one of us eats meat.
A – OK – but let’s start with a definition: A Foodie is someone who can appreciate dining on meat that is unusually rare. If you don’t eat meat we’re not sure you can qualify as a foodie. That’s like saying you’re a jockey who won;t go near a horse – oh by the way, foodies sometimes eat horse. So where to go? Mazatlan is a tremendous bargain these days and is also considered the seafood capital of Mexico. It is located in Sinaloa, the region of Mexico that raises the majority of Mexico’s best produce and some of its very best drug cartels. The shrimp in Mazatlan are huge – so there’s that for a start. Dining at a five-star restaurant these days will cost at least 50% less than a similar meal at home.
Q – I am enjoying what you have to say here. Fun reading on a Kindle at the beach house. Next month, it looks like my finance and I can get away for a few days in Paris. I am in fashion merchandising and always scouting out new trends, places to stay, and eat in Paris and elsewhere. Is there a hotel you can recommend that is small, hip, and somewhat eclectic. Keep it up guys -nice stuff.
A – Does that mean that you will not be using Marriott points? We think you might like Les Bains in the now rising Les Halles District where the new Forum de Halles is slowly approaching completion. It will replace the famed former food market. Des Bains was the place where market workers at the original Les Halles would clean up a bit and down drinks before heading home. The decor includes outdoor showers and an indoor pool from the building’s days as a bathhouse. The first place we would had to eat, and of course there are dozens in the area, is the new Chapeaux, a casual and classic French brasserie as interpreted by three-starred chef Alain Ducasse.
Q – We have friends who want us to join them on a tour to Japan with Tauck Tours. Part of the trip involves a cruise on a ship called the Austral, which I’ve never heard of. The whole thing lasts two weeks and it cost about $12,000 per person which is almost $1,000 per day. We’re thinking of going this fall and wonder if you think we should pull the trigger?
A – Tauck’s 14-Day “Land of the Rising Sun” land and tour program is brilliantly conceived and a creative way to gain immersion in the Japanese culture and way of life. In fact, this program is in contention for our “Trip of The Year” Award. The mix of seven days aboard the the spectacular French-crewed L’Austral yacht is icing on the Japanese cake. But here’s the bad news – this program is so unique that it has quickly become one of the toughest to book tours in existence. We recommend you forget about 2017 and concentrate, instead, on getting on one of the two departures of this tour in 2018. As to the pricing, quality sightseeing, and top-drawer hotels with all meals at $2,000 per couple per day is really not expensive when compared to land-only costs in Japan. Sorry for our enthusiasm – this is an extraordinary program with availability far below demand.
Q – I am extremely interesting in flying United to London in the new Polaris Business Class Seats. Believe it or not, the reservations person I spoke to couldn’t tell me which of the flights this May will have the new seats. Are the new seats worth it – I seem to hear they are wonderful.
A – The Polaris seats have some improved posture and support features but it is less the seat than the concept that every Business Class passenger gets an aisle seat and a lie-flat bed with the new seats. There is also a rather nice soft goods product that United has designed using bedding and duvets designed by Saks Fifth Avenue. But we seriously doubt the seats will be installed this May on your intended flights. This is a process that will be worked on one plane at a time and the complete rehab of United’s Business Class will likely span two years. You will, however, get to sit in United’s old-fashioned angle-bed seat while hugging a few pillows from Saks. As the bible says, “hard goods take much longer than soft goods to install.”
Q – Wonder if traveltruth can help us – we’re leaving to see our son at his school in Valencia, Spain in four weeks. We don’t know a word of Spanish – well, maybe just a word. Is there any place you can recommend that offers useful Spanish for travelers at little or no cost?
A – We like duolingo.com for quick learning language instruction online. There is no charge. You set your own pace. Hope this is helpful.
Q – My friends are booking a nice cruise that includes a stop in Cuba. But they tell me I will have to complete a personal affidavit to get approved by the Cuban government to go on this trip.
A – The Cuban government is in a state of confusion in terms of handling the large numbers of Americans who wish to visit their country as it opens up. The required affidavit is a simple one page document. We would certainly advise you to fill it out – although we are not really enouraging travel to Cuba as a cruise day-tripper. The Cuban culture, food, and nightlife is worth at least a week of your time. We are recommending touring Cuba – not stopping by via cruise ship for a few hours.
Q – My family is extremely well-traveled. Due to work requirements, my husband has to take a few weeks off in November each year. But after lousy weather in Europe, some really bad trips in the USA, and the hurricane season in the Caribbean, I feel we need some new ideas about destinations. We are looking for stimulating places where there really are things to see – we love history and we appreciate great scenery. We don;t need to go to really famous places. But we absolutely only want to go to those places where November is the perfect month to visit. If it makes any difference, I am from the Philippines and my husband is from Germany. One suggestion – you should do more Q and A – every day. Very helpful and honest.
A – November is a rather tricky month but as long as you have the time for a longer overseas flight there are some superb destinations where the weather in November is as good as it gets. Let us start you off with three specific recommendations:
01 – This is a perfect time to visit Tokyo and then, perhaps, Hakone and Kyoto in Japan. The trees are changing colors. Do visit Hoinshu, Japan’s largest island.
02 – Try visiting South America’s smallest country, Uruguay. They have beautiful beaches, you get a great deal for your dollar, and the food rivals what you would find in Argentina. Start in Montevideo but then explore the so-called “golden coast” and the countryside where gauchos ride the range. Then head to Buenos Aires for the culture fix you are seeking.
03 – Finally, for the ultimate in sensory impressions, sight, smell, colors, and some fantastic tastes, head to Rajasthan in India visiting the cities of Jaipur, Agra, Udaipur and Jodhpur. If you time this trip correctly, you can get to Diwali and the famed Pushkar Camel Fair.You will never forget it and the average temperature in the region is just around 85 degrees.
Q – I tend to fly a great deal in my job as a quality inspector for a manufacturing company. Lately, I’ve started getting to the gate early and asking for the Exit Row window seat. Each time I do I get asked if I would be able and willing to assist in case of an emergency. But the thought occurred to me yesterday – what if there really was an emergency. Do I do my Mariah Carey impression? Can I get sued if I don’t do certain things? If someone can’t make it through the door to the slide because they are too hefty am I required to rub them down with olive oil and try again? I really am concerned about this.
A – This is a rather grey area. No need to apply olive oil – just ask the heavyweights to stay with the plane and explain that someone will be back to get them. But your serious responsibilities generally include helping to open the door, helping people through it, and then, at the bottom of the exit slide, telling people to move away from the aircraft. The good news is that this is as unlikely a scenario as Trump’s induction into Mensa.
Q – Can you give me some advice about what to do if I get bumped from another flight. It just happened to us in Cincinnati. While they got us on a flight two hours later and everything worked out, the gate agent was not that helpful and I still think I should have gotten something for our trouble. I tried contacting United three days later and got nowhere.
A – This is why we always advise that you use a professional flight monitoring service. If you are bumped again, speak to a service supervisor at the airport, someone with authority to grant you compensation. Also try to get a supervisor on the line at the airline. The two hour delay rule allows for some nice compensation. If, for instance, you are delayed by four or more hours on an international; flight you are entitled to quadruple the one-way fare in the form of a refund or a future flight certificate. The rules change often so it is best to immediately get on the phone with your airline to establish your claim and get their best offer. Remember, however, they are not required to give you anything if the delay was due to reasons beyond their control. Chatting with the gate agent about this is the last thing you should do.
Q – Off in three months to take my girlfriend to Paris. Per your suggestion we are dividing our stay between the banks but we really are serious walkers and explorers and we want to get into the neighborhoods that are both interesting and away from selfie-seeking lemmings. We’re in our early forties and we’re getting serious even though we’ve both been married previously. I love that I finally found a woman who enjoys exploring cities as much as I do. Really cool site. Congratulations.
A – There are several off-the-beaten path ways to explore Paris. We would suggest you begin with the still secret 13th arrondissment and the neighborhood of Butte-aux-Cailles. It is rather up-and-coming and it is set against a hilltop. The whole neighborhood is changing but it still feels a lot like a walk through an eighteenth century village. We also love Belleville, a former working class district that straddles the 19th and 20th arrondissments. This area is filled with ethnic restaurants because it has become both an artists colony and home to a number of recent settlers in France. We would visit Belleville solely for the quality of its Chinatown – incredible Cambodian, Malaysian, Thai, and Chinese food from all of the major regions. Portions of the neighborhood may seem dicey but, on the whole, it is safer than attending a Manchester United match.