You may have noticed a trend lately on some of your flights that there is no in flight entertainment.  Many airlines are encouraging you to download an app on your ipad or computer before you fly.  This means you can use your own equipment to watch a film.  If you don’t have the download or if you don’t have an ipad with you then you can rent one – from the airline of course.  The problem is that sometimes the rented ipad (or even the comp one in the premium economy class) just doesn’t work very well.

Or perhaps you are on a long international flight and you do have seat back tv screens – so you don’t need an ipad then – but again, sometimes the screens just don’t work very well.

People become very mad about this situation.

Just google “inflight entertainment” and see how many cases there are of people wanting compensation because they had hours of flying with no entertainment at all.

I have to wonder about this.  Apart from the fact that you can read a book (a skill that seems to be fading fast), just sit and observe – there is a whole world of entertainment around you.  A veritable Hollywood in fact.


It is inevitable when you put 600 people in a metal tube flying through the air at an altitude of 39,000 ft for hours on end you are going to come across some strange people and/or some strange behaviour.

Check out Shawn Kathleen’s facebook page – she is a former flight attendant, self named the Sassy Stew.  During her time in the air she documented horrible passenger behaviour which people had a problem believing, until she started sharing the photographs.  https://www.facebook.com/PassengerShaming

It is quite incredible what some people will do on a plane.  Things that they would probably never do in their own home (or maybe not).

passenger shaming 4

Just about anybody who has travelled has had the experience of annoying behaviour – and it seems that the longer the flight the more annoying the behaviour becomes.  Things such as –

  • Everytime the person behind you stands up they use the back of your chair like a hoisting crane
  • The person who constantly checks their stuff in the overhead bin and bangs the door shut waking everyone up around
  • The person who is sitting behind you and has that nervous foot tapping thing going on

People are always surprised when I tell them I love flying – despite the above.  Think about it.  Time is so precious.  When was the last time you got to spend 8 hours doing absolutely nothing except reading, sleeping, eating and drinking.  Fantastic!  No errands to run, no phones to answer, no emails to send, no cooking or cleaning to do.  Bring it on.  I love flying and I really do not need any in-flight entertainment to keep me happy.  But then maybe I am the strange one.

reading on plane



I guess we always feel a bit jealous of those who live on a Caribbean island and have weekends of beach and palm trees – every – single – week!

At the moment we are not that jealous and sit back in awe in our comfortable homes watching the destruction of hurricane after hurricane.  Those who are lucky enough to have brick and concrete structures can “weather the storm” and have been sharing incredible mobile phone videos with the world.  For the vast majority however who live in wooden and more flimsy homes the devastation has been terrible.

But these people are resilient and the tourism industry is very important for many of these small Caribbean islands.  They will rebuild, the waves will calm down, the beaches will return to normal and new baby palm trees will take the place of the broken and battered ones. ….and they need your continued support.

You see, sometimes a bad situation brings out the best in people.

Here are just a few of the feel good stories –

Some employees who were stranded at a bakery by the flood made bread for hungry survivors. The bakers were stuck at the bakery for two days, but instead of being idle, they worked all night long to make hundreds of loaves of pan dulce bread to help nourish fellow flood victims. (source)

Four teenage boys rescued more than 50 people in Houston.  After waking up to discover his beloved truck was under water, a 17-year-old Texas boy enlisted his younger brother and two other teens to get on a fishing boat and rescue more than 50 people – and their pets – and bring them to the safety of a local shelter. (source)

Two furniture stores turned their locations into pet-friendly shelters. Mattress Mac welcomed displaced residents, their children, and their pets into their stores to provide them with a comfortable place to stay. (source)

Anne OBrion, a nurse from Richmond, Virginia, knew the hurricane was coming when she booked her vacation in Puerto Rico, “but I didn’t want to give up my trip for it.”  So OBrion was stuck in her hotel in San Juan as Irma made its way past the island Wednesday night.

OBrion said she had told authorities that she’s a nurse and was prepared to pitch in if needed.  “One doctor can’t take care of all these people,” she said. “I’m willing to do what’s necessary to help people. That’s why I do what I do.”

So sometimes disasters like this bring out the best in people – and we saw the same here with the Fort McMurray fires and the High River floods.

It’s a shame that sometimes it takes a disaster for us to reach out –






Why you need to go to Ireland

Ireland is a wonderful land – a beautiful green island that has seen its fair share of war and famine.  Go there – soon!  Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.  Walk the coastal routes and marvel at beaches that would rival anything you see in the Caribbean.  Travel on roads so narrow it is incredible how two-way traffic is allowed – and works.  Find yourself in a Derry pub with traditional music playing and the owner might even invite you behind the bar to pull a pint!


You see it is the people and the Irish spirit that makes the island so special – and yes I say island and not country because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together make up the Emerald Isle.

I toured the cities of the “troubles” – Derry and Belfast – and saw this from the unique perspective of both sides – Loyalists and Republicans.  Our group drove through one of the many gates in Belfast which still separate Catholic and Protestant and closes each night at 6 pm.  We even had a chance to add to the multi-coloured murals with our own graffiti –
belfast wall

I was there during the semi finals of Gaelic Football with Dublin playing Kerry.  My goodness – makes the Red Mile in Calgary look sad.  Every house was decorated in the blue of Dublin’s team and although I didn’t go to the match we went to the local pub to “celebrate”.  I think the bar tenders there must be lip readers – they certainly couldn’t hear any of the orders shouted across the bar.

You see the Irish have a turn of phrase – a way of saying things that make you stop, think and then laugh.

Take the famous statue of Molly Malone – I am sure you have heard the old song – and the statue is a popular tourist attraction in Dublin.


Leave it to the Irish – she is known locally as the “tart with the cart”.

Then there is the famous Spire …. The Spire of Dublin, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 120 metres in height, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street in Dublin,   This was erected to replace Nelson’s column which had been blown up by the IRA in 1966.  They did have another go at it during the Easter Rising in 1916 but apparently the explosives failed to ignite due to dampness – my goodness me!  Rain in Ireland?  What a concept.


Leave it to the Irish – known as the Stilleto in the Ghetto!

Or how about this beauty?  Meant to personify the River Liffy this statue was erected where the Spire is now.


Leave it to the Irish – this became well-known as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

So go there – have a Guinness – have a laugh – have a cry.


How connected are you while on vacation?

Are you one of those lucky ones who can totally disconnect when you go away on vacation?  Do you leave your work cell phone at home and absolutely refuse to take a lap top with you?  Well maybe you are lucky enough to have the sort of job where you don’t need to keep in touch with work.

For others however they always seem to be connected to the job –

I came across these great tips recently in the Chicago Tribune – how many would you follow –

“Disable email. Actually, disable everything. Turn off your work email, and really hide it.”

Mmmm – that really scares me.  I like to be in touch with my office and what’s going on.  And can you imagine the amount of emails that would be waiting for you when you got back to work?

vacation meme

“Remove calendars from your phone. If you’re the type who has work calendars, or any calendars, connected to your smartphone, remove them.. You don’t need an alert reminder of the weekly team meeting popping up as you order a mojito. Your only appointment is with the beach, the mountains or a good book.”

Well I agree with that to a certain extent.  You don’t really need to be consulting your calendar (your work calendar in any event) while you are trying to enjoy a vacation.  Unless you want to stress about that annual review coming up the week after you get back!


“Set up a solid out-of-office message. Do this early, so that you’re not stressing about typing it out before heading to the airport. You can say, “I’m out of the office until (enter date). Try me then.” Short, to the point, and this clarifies that you will not be available or responsive until after a certain time.”

Well – there a pros and cons to this.  I don’t like the idea of out of office messages when they reply to every single spam email I get but I suppose if I was a bit more techy I would be able to solve this one.  But I really love this one –

out of office

“Get a real camera. If you can, bring along a real camera. That’s right, one of the old-school versions that’s separate from your phone. Taking a photo is often why we reach for our smartphone, which too easily translates to just refreshing a website or checking in with a text.”

cell phone

Maybe our cell phone cameras are just easier …. and lighter.









Yes, it seems like a contradiction – in fact it is – how can you expected something that you don’t expect?  What I should be saying is expect to be surprised.  I think I am a pretty seasoned traveller and yet the number of times I am surprised by the unexpected is amazing.

Take Vietnam……


A few years ago, I planned a vacation to Vietnam doing a land and river cruise tour on the Mekong river.  Our journey started in Hanoi where we were due to spend 3 nights at the Sofitel Metropole in the old French Colonial district.

It’s a long flight …. And we arrived late at night.

Our guide was there to meet us and the drive from the airport to the hotel was quite long – well it felt quite long.  I was tired and it was dark.  You know that feeling when you arrive at a new place and it is night time – everything seems weird.  We arrived at the hotel and were greeted graciously by a beautiful Vietnamese lady and finally made it into our room.  I will admit I was grumpy and tired.  My husband suggested we go down and find somewhere to have a night cap.

Miss Negativity replied “Nah, there won’t be anything open – let’s just go to bed.”  But he persevered.

“Come on, let’s go downstairs and see what’s going on.  I’ll buy you a nice gin and tonic.”

“Oh, all right,” I replied ungraciously.  (I can be a bit of a bitch when I am tired!), thinking to myself that there would definitely not be anything open at 11.30 pm.

Well I was wrong…. We walked into the courtyard area and all around the pool were tables and chairs, little lights twinkling in the flower beds, the stars were bright in the sky, ice was tinkling in glasses and a sultry jazz singer was serenading the crowd in French.  Wow!  And I had the best gin and tonic ever!

Bamboo Bar Sofitel

Expect the unexpected.

It’s what makes travel so much fun.

The next day our tour started in earnest.  We met with our tour director and he told us that our first tour of Hanoi would be through the old city by cyclo which is a sort of cycle rickshaw.  We all trudged outside the Sofitel to see a host of cyclos parked into front of the hotel and I sighed a sigh.  Oh no – is this a super touristy thing to do.  I hesitated – should I go or not?  Oh, what the hell?  I might as well.  I climbed into the cyclo seat the guide directed me to.  My driver gave me a big toothless grin and nodded – he clearly did not speak a word of English – and with that he pushed on the pedals and we were off.


Oh, my goodness…. it was surreal.  I was all on my own with my driver sitting on the bike behind me as we glided through the tiny cluttered streets of old Hanoi.  I felt invisible.  There was no sound of the bike and with the driver behind me it had the effect of floating along on my own – almost like a ride at Disney – except everything I was seeing was real.  Families on the pavement sitting on their haunches eating bowls of pho.  Shopkeepers selling fruit and soup and bicycle parts and silk scarves.  Scooters wove in and out of the pedestrians and vendors on bicycles with impossibly high bundles of woven hats and baskets for delivery competed for space.  It was the most incredible experience and I nearly missed it because I thought it was too touristy.

Expect the unexpected.

Eventually we were on the Mekong on our luxury river cruise vessel and from the comfort of the deck we were able to watch the commerce on the Mekong – the easiest and quickest way to move goods and people.  Each day we would go on tours from the ship on smaller boats and travel down the tributaries of the Mekong.  One such day our skipper pulled the small boat over to the river bank.  I was puzzled.  I wondered why we were stopping there as there was nothing that I could see except high, steep rather muddy river banks.  He skillfully secured our boat to a tree trunk and then gestured as if to say, “Come on then – you wanted to see Vietnam – well here it is.”

With the help of the crew we scrambled up the river bank and emerged, through the bushes, into the middle of the busy thoroughfare of a traditional Vietnamese village.  Oh wow!  But here’s the thing.  We became the attraction – not the other way around.  Children ran out of the little houses to peer at us – some hid behind their mothers.  Young mothers smiled shyly and brave young kids ran up to say Hello Lady and practise their English.  Even the very elderly came out to say hello.  What a strange and delightful experience.

vietnam lady

Expect the unexpected.



I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and I think that is the same for many people.  I notice that from time to time people will take a break from Facebook and suddenly it is as if they have disappeared off the face of the planet.  Others will be super vigilant with their Facebook settings and will have such high privacy barriers that all you see is their profile picture – and this is probably a good thing.

The fact is that Facebook is so dominant now in our society and so much of what we do, say, buy or feel can be linked to articles that we have read or shared on Facebook.

The reason for my current interest is that I just went through some Facebook training (yes there is such a thing and it does not revolve around how to post a selfie).  The statistics were quite surprising.  62% of people use Facebook to check out local restaurants, small businesses and local events.  Facebook users check their newsfeed an average of 11 times a day!  Wow!

A recent conference I went to featured Facebook as a stress break for workers during the day.  It’s like the new smoke break.  Working on a tight timeline?  Getting stressed out.  Take a couple of minutes break to check Facebook and then return to that cost analysis feeling de-stressed and revived.


Hmmmm.  Do you agree?  Does that really work?

Being in the travel industry Facebook is very important to me.  I follow Facebook pages of my various suppliers which are usually closed groups where they can advise us of special offers coming up and a forum to share problems and resolve issues with their representatives.  It can sometimes be a quick and effective way to get something done – maybe quicker than a phone call.  It is also an interesting platform to keep up to date with trends in the travel industry and see what people who are out there travelling really think of the tour / cruise / hotel.  Just recently I read an interesting article of how Medellin in Colombia is re-inventing itself.  It was on Facebook so it was a quick read and it was there – front and centre on my feed.  I doubt if I would have picked up a magazine and read that.  Private groups on Facebook are a great way of sharing advice with colleagues as well as having a shoulder to cry on when retail fatigue sets in.


So those are all the things I love about Facebook.

What about the thing I hate most about Facebook?

Those posts where you are expected to share it otherwise you are a bad person – usually prefaced by “I know 98% of my friends won’t post this to their facebook” …. Aaaargh – don’t do that to me.

only my true friends facebook

Those posts about what level of Candy Crush you have reached.

And the fact that – yes – my innate sense of curiosity and noseyness means that I am one of those 11 times per day newsfeed checkers.

And I must admit – I also check how many people like my Travel Lady Facebook page and I am thrilled to see new likes – because it means that somebody out there is listening!





I know that this TV series which was aired on National Geographic had a lot of fans – myself included.  Unfortunately the series has been pulled because of some rights violations so now we will no longer be able to sit in our lounges and pass judgment on people who are “pulled over” going through customs and immigration.

You know how it goes “There you go… I knew she looked edgy” …. Or “You see – I knew he was lying” … yep – my kids hate watching TV with me and having to put up with a running commentary.  (Below follows a message from my kids).

talking meme

Being in the travel industry it is just so interesting to see behind the scenes at Canada’s major airports and how people are questioned.  It also has made me quite neurotic about filling in the proper information on my customs form when I return to Canada.

I keep a note of all purchases and also keep the receipts and even if I have bought an item of clothing which I have already worn I still declare it.  Really I am not a huge shopper so I never exceed the limit but it has certainly made me more conscious of what I buy.  So on my flight home I sit down with a piece of paper and make a note of all my purchases in Euros or whatever currency I spent and then convert out to Canadian so I have a total of what I have spent.  I keep this note handy so if the customs officer asks me what I spent the money on or what I bought then I give him my list.

So why do I still feel guilty?

Maybe it is something to do with having watched the TV series.  Standing in a line up after a long international flight it is a bit daunting when you are finally at that painted line on the floor waiting for the next officer.  And all I have are some t-shirts and the odd dress and some chocolates or candy for the girls in the office.

So why do I still feel guilty?

I can’t imagine how someone would feel who was actually smuggling something in that they shouldn’t.  Remember that scene in Midnight Express – oh my goodness – I would be shaking like a leaf.

midnight express

Apart from the usual suspects (drugs and alcohol), people have tried to smuggle in the weirdest things – like lizards!  Yes, 6 baby lizards to be exact, smuggled into Canada by some guy in the pocket of his hoodie.  Yep – he was caught and fined $6000.   A lot of the confiscated goods at customs are food items (and we always see that on Border Security).   I can’t quite see myself smuggling in chicken wings or fish cakes or even a human skull (yes someone was caught with one of these in her bag).

So I will keep making my lists on the flight and declare everything I buy and try not to look too shifty when I pass through customs – and try not to feel guilty.

guilty meme