Feliz Navidad – and get out of my way

Yeah – the Christmas spirit sometimes doesn’t spread to the airport.  This weekend the airports all over the world will be packed to capacity, flights will be late, people will get bumped and sooner or later the question will be asked “Are we having fun yet?”  It’s just a fact of life that travel over Christmas – particularly the few days just before Christmas – tend to be the busiest and the most stressful.  This is not only for the travellers but also for airport staff who have to take the brunt of people’s frustrations.

Come on Santa – you know the luggage rules!

So I am not going to give you the usual advice – arrive early, don’t pack your gifts – etc.  We hear this every year – ad nauseum.  Instead I am going to give you some other advice for coping with Christmas travel over this time.


Honestly – it works every time.  Just try it!  It is very hard to resist a smile, hard to be angry or irritated with someone smiling at you.  It will cut the tension i n half.


In these days of forgotten manners it really does make a difference when you ask nicely and add a please or a thank you.


Seriously – don’t turn around suddenly when you are standing in a line-up.  You could kill someone.



Two Gravol and a glass of wine, please…

A new way to enjoy a snack and a glass of wine while watching great white sharks.

Yeah…no – as they say in the classics.  What a bizarre idea!  You have probably heard of cage diving before – you don a scuba outfit and all the gear and get into a cage so you can observe the great white sharks – very popular in Cape Town.  Kind of gives me the creeps but I have lots of clients who have taken part in this adventure in South Africa and have loved it.  And I get that.  At least you are in the open sea but the idea of being in a small glass cage under the water – with those waves swirling around.  Mmm – not so much.  Here’s the cage version of meeting the sharks.image

Probably the worst sea journey I ever did was the notorious Irish Channel on the ferry between Liverpool and Belfast.  My dad (Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy at the time) knew in advance that the best thing for this overnight crossing was to book a cabin.  He made sure we had a good meal, a couple of sea sickness tablets and then early bed (or bunks).  We survived the crossing and woke in the morning refreshed only to be totally shocked at the mess the crew had to sluice down in the general seating area where people had bought the cheap seats.

Generally these days the cruise ships are so large (floating malls) that most people suffer no discomfort at all.  One thing to be avoided, however, is deep sea fishing.  Don’t do this unless you are sure you have the stomach for it.  Reminds me of a tale told by my sister and her husband in Cape Town, South Africa.  They were heading out with friends to go deep sea fishing and were all prepared.  They had ordered KFC (breasts only), a couple of crates of beer and headed out early  in the morning.  They returned late in the afternoon, pale and wan looking.  Yes the crew enjoyed the KFC and the cases of beer and no-one cared about catching any kind of fish.

The problem is – once you are out there on fishing expedition – you are there for the day.  I recall a deep sea fishing captain on South Africa’s Wild Coast once telling me that he could be a rich man ten times over as he had been offered farms if he would just turn the boat around early and head back to shore.  I wonder why he said no.

Si Senor – you can kiss the bride.

Yes – we had a family wedding in Mexico.  After many years of helping others plan destination weddings we finally had one in the family when my daughter decided to tie the knot on the beach.  Now it has been a long time since I have been to Mexico – especially an all inclusive in Mexico – and it was with mixed feelings that I headed down to Cancun.  There was excitement about the wedding and concern that all the guests would be well accommodated and looked after.  We had several infants and toddlers and travelling with little ones is not easy at the best of times.

All went well on the flight and then we got to Cancun airport …. well I have travelled all over the world and never have I experienced such chaos.  So many planes arriving at the same time – a big line up to go through immigration and then a whole mish mash of people with no visible line up trying to get through customs.  It reminded me of the proverbial camel through the eye of a needle.  Except I could not see any “eye” and the Mexican officials just kept saying “Keep moving, keep moving”.

Eventually the human machinery spat us out the other end – only to fall prey to the airport “officials” who stand there shouting “Air Canada Vacations”, “Transat and Nolitours”.  Trust me – they are not the representatives of these companies and are just a nuisance.  By this time I was having a real sense of humour failure.

Not to worry – before long I was down at my resort hotel with a cold Margarita on the rocks clenched in my hand – and everything started to look better.  Wow I have to say the Mexican people are so kind and welcoming and they work so hard.

Every morning the wait staff would have a meeting with the head waiter before they marched out of the beachside restaurant to take up their stations at the various bars.  Believe me – there were people waiting there already for their morning drink – and this was at 10 am.  I guess it’s five o’ clock somewhere….

The main thing was that everyone (especially the kids) were having fun.  Most of the “customers” at the swim up bar were kids, in fact, busy getting a sugar high from all the virgin pina colada’s.  Needless to say the water around the swim up stools seemed a few degrees higher in temperature than the rest of the pool.  Hmmm – I wonder why?

The wedding was a huge success as the weather held out and I can honestly say that I could not have wished for a better backdrop for my daughter and son-in-law to say their vows.

So an all inclusive Mexico vacation is not my usual style but I was very impressed with the value and service that I received on this trip.  The benefit of having all the family together from both sides in a lovely setting was that we got to know each other a little better and have made some lovely memories from this trip.

So well done Mexican people, Transat people and the hotel people.  Try harder Cancun airport people.  To all the brides yet to say I do on the beach…. Relax!  It’s going to be amazing!

Bacon on the side please

Have you ever travelled on a flight next to a pig?  Now come on – I don’t mean that person who picked their nose the whole way from Calgary to Toronto.  I am talking about a real live pig.  Yes – on a plane.

Rachel Boerner, 29, travels with a pig who is an “emotional support” animal.   Apparently the pig was very disruptive, squealing, pooing and peeing which clearing irritated the other passengers and the crew.  It seems Ms Boerner was also irritated and kept calling the pig a “jerk” for not listening.

Now before we get into the why’s and wherefore’s of taking a pig on a flight what is the justification for having a pig as an emotional support animal?  Is this just a ploy to take a pet anywhere you like.  What’s next?   According to Mail Online -
“In 2012 it was revealed that the Department of Transportation had certain guidelines allowing animals, including pot-bellied pigs, could be taken on flights. Along with monkeys and miniature horses, they could be designated as ‘Emotional Support’.

Monkeys and miniature horses…???  Yes….

or this…

Now don’t get me wrong – I am totally in favour of support animals but I think some people take advantage of this by claiming that an animal is an emotional support animal when it is really a pet (and of course a very loved pet – but a pet all the same).   Wikipedia definition -

“An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability. “

So what are your thoughts?  Are you OK with sitting next to a pig on your next flight?

Do we believe TripAdvisor?

It’s a good question.  A lot of people swear by TripAdvisor and a recent bad review of a hotel brought up some interesting comments on the internet.  But let’s first look at the bad review and what happened to the person who posted it.

Tony Jenkinson and his wife spent a night at the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool.  They were so unhappy with the hotel that he posted on TripAdvisor that the hotel was a “rotten, stinking hovel”.  The hotel retaliated by charging their credit card with £100 for posting the review.  Gives you pause for thought….!  How many times have you posted a bad review of a hotel or restaurant.

What is significant also is that Mr Jenkinson is obviously familiar with TripAdvisor but seemingly didn’t check the site before booking into the hotel otherwise he would have seen that it was ranked 858th out of 894 hotels in Blackpool – and at only £36 a night – well the old saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.

So what gives the hotel the right to charge this “fine”?  Apparently it is in the small print which Mr Jenkinson’s wife signed off on when they checked in.  Wow – it is worth while to check the small print before you sign.

An interesting aside – this incident prompted some online comments on Travel Mole and the one below really stood out.

  • dodgy trip advisor

    you can pay someone in India to give you a 1000 “separate & independent” +ve (positive) reviews on trip advisor. Similarly you can pay them to give a 1000 -ve(negative) reviews to your opposition. Anyone who even reads this crap is obviously very naive & stupid.

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So how reliable is TripAdvisor?  It’s handy but its not the Bible.  Remember that the person unhappiest with their vacation is going to be the one most motivated to write a review on Trip Advisor.  So balance out the comments, good and bad, search out other websites – and if all else fails – talk to a professional.  You’ll be happy you did.

What did we do before GPS

I can’t think?   We used maps ….. and had arguments.  Here’s a riddle.  What would you rather be?  The Driver or the Navigator?  Depends where you are I suppose.  Take Ireland…. now there’s a good one.  Lots of ring roads which most Canadians dislike.  You have to have been in the situation to understand how frustrating it is when you are going around the ring road for the third time and your soul mate (who is driving) is shouting “Which bloody exit?”.

Of course it is not made any easier by the fact that you opted to go with a stick shift car.  Yes I know why – it is much cheaper.  I agree.  But if you are driving in Britain or Ireland remember that everything is on the wrong side – the gear stick, the indicators, the solid white line.  This doesn’t make driving in a strange place any easier and if you do burn out the clutch (which is pretty much guaranteed) then it will come back to haunt you in your back pocket.

That’s why a GPS system in an automatic car is the ideal choice for a self-drive vacation.  The soothing tone of the lady in the GPS will calm down any concerns over getting lost.  She never gets flustered.  When you take a wrong turn she just sighs silently and then re-jigs her position calmly advising you to take the next exit and then do a u-turn.  Maybe us women/navigators can take a lesson from that.  But then the lady in the GPS is always right and her feelings are never hurt.



A busman’s holiday

That’s what I think of going away on vacation where there is a kitchen!  This old expression dates from around the 1800’s – here’s the definition according to Wikipedia – A “busman’s holiday” is a holiday spent by a bus driver travelling on a bus: it is no break from his usual routine. By analogy, anyone who spends his holiday doing his normal job is taking a “busman’s holiday”.

The very first time we visited Maui we were very kindly offered someone’s condo – which was wonderful.  We had recently emigrated and didn’t really have the funds at that stage to book into a hotel.  It was wonderful exploring Maui but boy oh boy, when it got around to 4 pm every evening there was the inevitable question.  :”What’s for supper?”  You see cooking for your family doesn’t just mean cooking – it means deciding and decisions are something I would rather not make while I am on holiday (as well as shopping and cooking).  It really gets me hot under the collar so don’t get me started…

So a busman’s holiday is going away on holiday and ending up doing what you do for a living – something you definitely want to avoid.  Unfortunately as any business owner knows you can’t escape and I will always make sure I take my laptop and cell phone with me so I am in communication with my office.  One thing I have done however to avoid that busman’s holiday feel is to start telling lies.

I know – it sounds terrible to admit – but I do lie.  Why?  People used to ask me what I did for a living and when I told them that I was in the travel industry…. well you can imagine.  Yes – Busman’s Holiday.  It’s like the doctor on vacation who meets people at a cocktail party and they ask him about that pain in their …. well never mind.  You get my gist.

So I have to invent professions.  “So what do you do?”…. “I am in sales.”   “Oh yes, what do you sell?”  …. long pause while searching for inspiration …. “Um, advertising space for newspapers.”

“What a coincidence – so do I!  Let’s trade business cards.”

Oops!  You got me!