Get your gadgets out of my space….

Are we gadget crazy?  Especially when we fly.  People get on flights these days loaded up to the gunnels with all sorts of technical equipment, strange head rests, oversize ear phones.  Here’s just of a few of the wackiest I have seen –

Bizarre travel accessories
This is apparently so you can eat, sleep or do whatever privately.  Pretty weird – I would be a bit worried sitting next to someone with this on.  They could be a serial killer.

Bizarre travel accessories
Have to be careful with this one if you are looking to get chat someone up on a flight.   Apparently the air conditioning fan is inclined to “inflate” the whole jacket making you look ….well a bit puffy

Bizarre travel accessories

Bizarre travel accessories
Just don’t seat me next to the person with this device while you are cranking and sweating.

Bizarre travel accessories


Let’s face it – it’s as if when you step on that plane you are entering another world with another set of rules.  Rules that need to be obeyed –

  1. Be nice to the flight attendant – it will be helpful later on
  2. The  middle seat person gets BOTH arm rests
  3. Don’t scatter your garbage all over the floor
  4. Think before you recline
  5. On overnight flights go to sleep and don’t leave your light on all night
  6. Don’t talk to the person next to you if you don’t know them.  A simple nod at seating is sufficient and then pretend they are not there.
  7. Don’t let your knee stray over into the next person’s legroom space even if you are a daddy long legs.  You should have booked an exit row.
  8. The bulk head leg room area belong to the bulk head people because generally they have paid extra for this space.  This area is not for crossing from one aisle to another.
  9. Have the courtesy to listen to the in flight safety announcement.  In the event of an emergency it will be all the know-alls who will be panicking.
  10. Remember all the things your mom told you when you were little – close your mouth when you are eating, put your hand over your mouth when you cough, say please and thank you.

Going all the way

It’s something we often encounter – bewildered customers wanting to know why the price they found online was so much lower than the quote we have given them.  Well the first question we ask in this case is …..

 Did you go all the way?  Don’t be coy – we won’t judge you.  Very often what you see on the first screen is not the whole story and yes – you do have to go all the way!

Booking online is not always that straightforward and there is a great deal of smoke and mirrors and hot competition.

So is it really the best travel deal?

The explosion in online travel sites has witnessed a curious struggle by airlines and tour operators for top spot on the results of travel searches – in other words to be identified by the travel sites search engine as having the cheapest price and be at the top of the list that is displayed. Needless to say the unrestrained urge to appear best has resulted in all sorts of strategic lurks such as moving a chunk of an airfare into the so-called “taxes” and calling it some made-up nonsense like a “fuel surcharge” (which oddly, doesn’t reduce with lower fuel prices). Then there are the hidden baggage, booking and other imaginative fees….I could go on but you’ve all seen them. All these nasty surprises tend to show up in the second or third booking screens with the predictable disillusioned response from the no-longer-a booker.

And then there are the hotels – everyone in North America has encountered the compulsory “resort fees” that suddenly show up after you’ve gone for that killer online room rate. And now it seems those are being increased – largely because consumers stopped complaining. (Read the excellent analysis of that little money-grab by Chris Elliott on the link below) So Caveat Emptor – (Buyer Beware – apparently even the Romans faced similar issues) – that online deal may not be so dealicious when its time to put in your credit card number!

Hold on while I grab my phrase book -

Good luck with that one!  Standing in line in Paris waiting to buy a train ticket I was struggling to remember my schoolgirl French.  Unfortunately it did not run to purchasing “billets” in first class.  It did mean that I could ask the ticket vendor if he had seen the pen of my aunt…. and that was about that.

We are always told that a few words in the local language go a long way in any country – but I wonder.  Do you think the locals get a real good laugh at our pathetic accents and attempts to communicate in French, Spanish or even more complex, let’s say, Greek?  OMG – can you imagine what we sound like.

It’s always made worse by the fact that so many people in Europe today speak such good English.  It almost makes our attempts to page through the phrase book look extremely silly.   Unless you have the totally wrong phrase book as happened in an old Monty Python sketch where he thought he was asking a polite question in Hungarian “Can you direct me to the station” what he was actually saying was “Can you fondle my bum”.  Well of course that was just a comedy routine and very unlikely to happen in real life.  However sometimes there is reverse silliness that goes on where maybe the sign writers in foreign countries have got their English phrase books mixed up – with hilarious results.

But wait – some English signs by English speaking people are even more hilarious

Yup – it’s a weird world out there for sure.

Canadian Loonie Tunes

Oh misery me – the mighty US Dollar is dwarfing our Canadian Loonie and now where – oh where – can we go on vacation.  Better not to go.  After all – convert out what you will pay in US dollars into our miserable weak Canadian dollar and we are paying twice as much.  What is the point of a vacation if we have to live on KFC every day.

Hang on a minute!  

Who says you have to go on vacation and spend US dollars?  Really?  So let’s look at where you can go and spend your Canadian dollars so that you feel like a super hero instead of a super flop!

That’s right!  You tell them Super Canuck!

FIJI – (60c Cdn buys you one Fijian dollar) – use Fijian dollars to buy your Kava fix.  This face-numbing, drowsy-making root is ground up with water usually in a large communal bucket – placed in a cloth that sometimes looks like grandad’s old sock and then everyone has a good chug and after a few cups they don’t care what the hell has happened to the Canadian dollar.  Good medicine!

What’s a Loonie anyway?

COOK ISLANDS / NEW ZEALAND – (92c Cdn buys you 1 New Zealand dollar)
Still winning here – and even more so because there is NO TIPPING IN THE COOK ISLANDS.  That’s right.  No need to think about having to add on 15% to the bill.  Even in New Zealand tipping is not expected and is not customary.  So what can you spend your money on in the Cooks (as it is affectionately known)?  Well you could do a tour with Pa – legendary medicine man ex surfing champion and quite the guy.  $70 NZD buys you a nature walk with Pa.

GUESS WHAT?  You don’t use US dollars in Europe!
Cdn $10 will buy you 7 Euro’s.  That’s better than it used to be.  So where is the cheapest place in Europe at the moment?  According to the BackPacker Index for 2015 no surprise that Kiev in the Ukraine is the cheapest place at the moment.  Better give that one a miss!  However there are some great cities out there such as Budapest and Bratislava offering great value for money.

OH AND WHAT ABOUT BALI?  No USD there either?  The only USD you will need there will be for the visa upon arrival.  Once there – go crazy!  Bali is a shoppers paradise.  But be prepared to negotiate for a good deal in the markets.  It is a national sport – especially where tourists are involved – and let’s face it … they are going to know you are a tourist.  Trust me – they know.

A fate worse than Disney….

OK – let me first explain…. it’s a running joke here in the office that I am not a Disney fan.  Not because of Disney per se – but just because the whole commercialism of the operation leaves me cold.  So I always jokingly say – there can be nothing worse than a Disney vacation.  It’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth – well I can guarantee you that you will see crying children at Disney.  It’s just too much for them – too many people – too much waiting in line – everybody stressed out because – oh my goodness – this is the happiest place in the world so why am I miserable?  Is there something wrong with me?  It’s the pressure to be happy I think that gets too much.

However…. a recent trip up to the ski hills an hour from Calgary made me realise that there is a fate worse than Disney.  Talk about stress.  Struggling into all those clothes not to mention the boots with bone crushing snaps and buckles makes any sane person go round the bend.  Then you have to walk around in these things the whole day – so I can totally understand why people would switch to snow-boarding.  The boots look much more comfortable.

Woe betide if you are a non-skier like myself trying to find somewhere to sit at the lodge.  Every chair (especially the arm chairs) are taken up by lounging skiers who scatter their helmets, masks, gloves and other stuff all over the place.  “Why are you here?” I wanted to shout.  “Get back out onto that hill.”

And then there are the poor children who have been squashed into all this equipment because mom and dad think it will do them good to learn to ski.

Oh dear – nobody looks happy here.

Maybe there is a way to turn a horrible vacation experience into a not-so-bad vacation experience.  Maybe Disney will buy a ski resort and then you can take your kids and put them into bone crippling ski boots with Mickey helmets and buy day passes that cost even more than lift tickets and then everyone will be happy.
They will won’t they?  Because you are supposed to feel happy!  And so you will, damn it!

You want to go where????

What’s the oddest place you have travelled to?  Maybe it’s not odd to you but it could be very strange to other people who don’t know why you went there.  Maybe you are tracing your heritage or perhaps writing a thesis.  Whatever the reason there are a lot of strange places out there with compelling reasons why maybe you should go there.  Here’s just a few –

Oradour-sur-Glane – this French village is a really odd place and the subject of controversy.  On 10th June 1944 for no known reason an SS Panzer Division drove in and killed everyone they could find and set every building on fire.  Many areas of the destroyed village have been left untouched and create a moving testament to this tragedy.
Oradour-sur-Glane Church (main scene of the massacre of the women and children)  The car of Dr. Desourteaux on the Champ de Foire in Oradour-sur-Glane
History buffs will love this place.

The underground city of Coober Pedy, Australia.
When temperatures reach 51 °C it makes sense to go underground – it’s cool and cheap (no expensive air con to run).   Over 2000 people live there and apparently it is cheaper to dig out a 3 bedroom underground house than to build one on the surface.  There’s even a hotel and a church.
Coober Pedy Catholic Church Image Credit:  Michael/hopkinsii/Flickr  coober-pedy-3
Why would you go there?  To buy opals of course. Why not?

FLY GEYSER, NEVADA – When you think of Nevada you naturally think of Vegas.  Well most people do – but if you have a budding scientist in the family you might want to do a small 8 hour detour to see this man-made geothermal geyser.  It was created by accident in 1964 and is definitely a weird sight.

Giraffe Manor – near Nairobi – How about an early morning wake up call from a Giraffe?  This boutique hotel near Nairobi has a resident herd of giraffe that somehow have become the hotel pets.  Spoilt too!

Stay in a lighthouse at the top of Scotland – Can you imagine?  This would be a different way to end off your coach tour.  How about getting off the coach in Edinburgh and then heading out to Strathy Point (you would have to fly into Inverness).  At least you could be guaranteed peace and quiet – but sorry – no pets and you won’t find any giraffes here either.

Are there Hobbits in Wales? – Certainly looks like it.  You can rent this hobbit style accommodation known as the Eye-Pod. (Hope Apple isn’t taking any notice of this).  Certainly looks cozy.

But you can’t beat the real thing

You can’t stay there – but it’s definitely worth a visit.

In fact as Gandalf says –
“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there”

When you are feeling mean….

just grab your tablet, iphone – whatever – and send someone a nasty email.  Apparently this will make you feel better about your own miserable self.  I guess something about unnecessarily putting someone else down will elevate your self esteem.  That’s the only reason I can think of.

There are loads of examples of this sort of conduct – most recently some delightful Global TV viewers saw fit to send in nasty critical emails to the Global TV Morning News team.  As you may know I have worked with Global TV for 19 years now and know the people well.  I was shocked at some of the emails.  If you missed this – here it is.

The power of the email/tweet/post is undeniably strong and can provoke strong reactions – especially in stressful situations – like travel.  Yes, although travel may be exciting it can also be stressful when the weather doesn’t co-operate, hotels don’t have the right room and flights refuse to depart the terminal on time.  That every-handy smart phone comes to the fore – as we can see from some of these examples of tweets from the tarmac –

“Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA.”
This from a South West passenger – guess what?  The flight attendant (Kimberly S) picked up the tweet and ordered him off the plane.

And then there is Michael O’Leary – the boss of Ryan Air.
 He is controversial at the best of times and when he took to twitter he raised a whole storm of mean comments such as –

“Were you born an arsehole or has it progressed throughout your life?”

And when O’Leary tried to use his legendary sense of humour (or sarcasm) to deal with stupid questions it just got worse….

One questioner asked: “Is there any truth in the rumour that you plan to charge passengers for each inhalation they make after take off?” The chief executive responded instantly with: “Hi Beth, great idea. Have a team workin’ on it as we breathe!” The riposte read: “I thought you might like that one you money-grabbing bastards”.  (Not that this seems to bother O’Leary.)

It’s a big debate in society today – cyber bullying and all the rest.  Where do we draw the line?  There is a delicate balance between having a bit of fun – and being just downright mean.    So let’s keep it light people!