San Antonio Salsa Feast

August 29 2008 by Mike Mason

Salsa.jpgA visit to San Antonio isn't complete unless you take some time to stroll down the San Antonio Riverwalk. Or, perhaps more fitting, take a river taxi or boat tour. For first timers in San Antonio there is plenty to enjoy and discover by just taking your time, discovering a good restaurant, or checking out the shops.

For those that have frequented the Alamo and the Riverwalk a few times already, there are other adventures to be had in San Antonio. Why not try Salsa dancing? For the record, I much prefer eating this stuff than trying to dance to it. Fortunately for San Antonio, they have both, in large amounts. Near the Best Western Sunset Suites Riverwalk, are a number of Salsa clubs where you can learn the finer points. A few even offer beginner classes for, like me, complete Salsa ignoramuses. Check out Azuca Cocina Latina Nuevo for class times.

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The Last Business Trip of the Summer? 5 Quick Tips

August 27 2008 by Claudia Kunkel
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The Last Business Trip of the Summer? 5 Quick Tips

    • Take the family along! Plan ahead and extend your business trip into a mini-vacation by an extra day or two. With airfare skyrocketing, at least your ticket will be paid for by the company - and possibly a night or two of the hotel charges.

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Unplugged Travel

August 26 2008 by Amy Graff

silverlake.JPGLast week, the kids and I escaped to California's Sierra for two nights. We stayed with friends at their cabin on Silver Lake, a quiet spot tucked behind Kirkwood Ski Resort. Here, we made homemade fishing poles from sticks, paddled a canoe to an island, and feasted on fresh rainbow trout. We also did a whole lot of nothing.

The trip was peaceful because we were amidst nature and even more so because we were without Internet or phone service. In fact, the cabin didn't even have electricity. After three technology-free days, I realized that a vacation is much more relaxing when you're not receiving calls from your boss or reading news stories online.

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Lesser Known National Parks in the Southwest

August 26 2008 by Mark Deyer

mesa verde.jpgOften we set out to explore our most renowned national parks only to discover that in the peak season they can be fully booked and extremely crowded. If you are willing to venture off the beaten path there are a host of lesser known national parks that offer visitors up close encounters with breathtaking natural wonders and unique cultures. The Southwest hosts a handful of notable examples in Colorado and Utah including Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Parks.

Mesa Verde
Don't miss the well-preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people at Mesa Verde National Park. Most sites are only accessible by ranger-guided tours which must be purchased in person at the Far View Visitors Center for $3 per person. The tours are strenuous but well worth the effort!

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Summer's Slip Slidin' Away

August 26 2008 by Mike Mason
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slipslidin.jpgReaching the final stretch of summer has the ability to cause a minor panic attack in those that are less than prepared. "Summer is already coming to an end? I didn't vacation. I didn't get out enough. I didn't live life to the fullest and another season has swept by as I sat at my computer toiling away" (ok, that last one is just me). If you can relate to these feelings, trying to plan and execute a full blown summer excursion at this point may feel unrealistic. But there is still time to suck a bit of marrow out of life, so to speak.

For me, I have daydreams of an exotic beach location, hundreds of miles away from email and phones, clear blue water and white sand. Then in my daydream I realize I am not single anymore, I have kids...and they are running around my beach chair wanting to know when we are going back to the hotel pool (apparently water in the ocean isn't cutting it these days) and how close is Disneyland and could we stop there on the way back and this is kind of boring and are we really just going to stay here the whole time?!

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Green Your Hotel Stay

August 21 2008 by Neal Mueller
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In 2003 I set out on a 15-day adventure in Africa and it totally changed my environmental outlook. I traversed Mount Kilimanjaro from west-to-east and watched the Furtwangler Glacier melt and crumble. For me it was a dramatic example of global warming. It's hard to disbelieve what is right before your eyes. The ice fields on Kilimanjaro have lost 82 percent of their ice since 1912. I literally watched house sized chunks calve from this glacier a few hundred feet from me. It was cacophonous, traumatic and sad.

Like I said, this totally change my environmental outlook. This includes the way I travel and stay in hotels. Here are couple things I'm doing to green my travel.

  1. Turn off lights and air conditioning when gone from the room (a no brainer). The whole "we'll leave the light on for you" advertisement campaign is so 1980.
  2. Change linens only when needed. When I stay at hotels I ask the maids to do it every third day. They save time and I save the city some water, everyone wins.
  3. Refill water bottles. The energy we waste in America using bottled water is crazy; it's enough to power 190,000 homes. There is a great campaign called Refill not Landfill, www.refillnotlandfill.org.
  4. Use public transport. Here are two great public transport route finders. Google is doing their part www.google.com/transit. For all other cities go here www.publictransportation.org/systems
  5. Be an innovator. Think of creative ways to reuse "disposable" items to save money and the environment. lifehacker.com/386927/creative-ways-to-reuse-disposable-items
  6. Be a green advocate. Ask the hotel manager about their energy usage, such as energy-saving bulbs and recycling. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear what is going on behind the scenes to make Best Western hotels sparkly green. The point is, the more that hotel guests express concern the greener the hotel operations will become. Hotel managers are very responsive hosts and will take notice to innovate green operations.
Talk to us. Have you had an experience like mine that totally changed your environmental outlook?

What are you doing to green your hotel stay?

What can we be doing to green our hotels even more?

Frozen Custard's Best Stands

August 20 2008 by Mike Mason

I have to admit, I haven't eaten many frozen custards in my day. Not that I don't like them, on the contrary. For some reason I don't have many locations nearby that offer the stuff. I did visit Michael's in Madison Wisconsin, a few years back and have to say, "yummy!" For me, it is probably good I have to travel a few miles for these things, or I would be in big trouble. Big, being the key word here.

In my curiosity, I discovered partly what makes frozen custard different from regular ice cream...higher butterfat content. Yes, I know we were all hoping for something like, less water or more churning...and though these might also play a part, the stuff tastes good and has a thick texture for a reason. And that reason is more butterfat. Some things in life are just worth it, and rich, savory frozen custard is definitely a treat to splurge on!

I am sure there are many favorite frozen custards out there...but here are a few frozen custard spots you won't want to miss if you are nearby:

Ted Drewes, St. Louis: If you are staying at the Best Western Kirkwood Inn you may want to make the 8.5 mile trip to the one that has inspired many a frozen custard stand. The two St. Louis stands are one of a kind locations because Ted, despite frequent offers, refuses to franchise his store. Ted himself once stated, "It is a matter of quality. Franchising could lead to mediocrity." With that being said, you know you are getting the very best and most exclusive frozen custard when you go to a Ted Drewes stand.

On the political front, John McCain recently made a stop at Ted Drewes to sample its famous fare and rub shoulders with a few voters.

This place is popular:

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Shop Santa Fe

August 19 2008 by Claudia Kunkel
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Shop Santa Fe.jpgI'll just say it now and get it out of the way - I love everything about Santa Fe, New Mexico. The sunsets, the food, the art galleries, the ambience, but most of all, I love the shopping. And, to be even more specific, the Southwest jewelry that includes everything from beautiful turquoise pieces to uniquely designed silver bracelets, rings and necklaces. Strolling along the Plaza, you will ultimately wind up at the grassy square surrounded by historic homes and the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the United States. This is where all the action is - you'll find many local artisans displaying and selling their handiwork here.

No shopping trip in Santa Fe is complete without a sampling of the local cuisine. A meal at Pasqual's is a must - breakfast is fabulous and many enjoy grabbing a seat at the big community table to catch up on interesting local conversation. Another local favorite is Tiny's, a Santa Fe tradition since 1950 serving a wide variety of food at very reasonable prices. With so many unique restaurant choices in Santa Fe, you definitely will not go hungry!

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Tune In for Travel - Creating a Vacation Soundtrack

August 18 2008 by Matthew Clyde
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Vacation Sound Track.jpgTime for some summer refection. Memories of barbeques and kicking back with some good friends. Remembering late nights and early mornings because no one is watching the clock. But there is one key to making any summer memorable... road trips. This summer no road trip was complete without a playlist full of great music. What you will discover is with the right playlist of tunes, you will always have a trigger to remember your getaway. I still play Milan 2006 with longing and relive the thrills of Grand Canyon Adventures 2004 thanks to my travel tunes.

Keep your destination in mind when creating your hodgepodge of melodies. Pick music that will get you pumped up for the vacation ahead and keep the memories flooding back when it is over. Here are a few sample playlists for creating your own vacation soundtrack:

San Diego, California
If the beach is what you are looking for then put on some laid back tunes and get ready for some relaxation while soaking in the rays.
1. Amazing - Josh Kelley
2. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
4. Yellow - Coldplay
5. Love Soon - John Mayer
6. New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
7. Fun, Fun, Fun - Beach Boys
8. Buffalo Soldier - Bob Marley
9. Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
10. Everything - Michael Buble
11. Steal My Kisses - Ben Harper
12. Where are you Going - Dave Matthews Band
13. Upside Down - Jack Johnson
14. Californiacation - Red Hot Chili Peppers
15. Island in the Sun - Weezer

Nashville, Tennessee
If you are a country music fan then this is the destination for you! Nashville is the "home of country music" and you can bet that is what I centered my playlist around.
1. Never Wanted Nothing More - Kenney Chesney
2. Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts
3. That Song In My Head - Julianne Hough
4. Wherever You Are - Jack Ingram
5. A Feelin' Like That - Gary Allen
6. Summertime - Kenney Chesney
7. So So Long - Dierks Bentley
8. Wide Open Space - Dixie Chicks
9. Chicks Dig It - Chris Cagle
10. Last Name - Carrie Underwood
11. You Can't Take the Honkeytonk Out of the Girl - Brooks & Dunn
12. It's Good To Be Us - Bucky Covington
13. Playboys of the Southwestern World - Blake Shelton
14. Mud on the Tires - Brad Paisley
15. Walking In Memphis - Lonestar
16. Fast Cars and Freedom - Rascal Flatts
17. Something Like That - Tim McGraw

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Route 66 Recap

August 18 2008 by Amy Graff

Earlier this month, I talked about my family's Route 66 road trip on ABC's nationally syndicated TV show View from the Bay. You can watch the segment by clicking here.

For those visiting the site for the first time, here's a rundown of my five favorite posts from trip.

Route 66 Slideshow

It's an American Girl

Mediocre Music Makers, Erick, Okla.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Angel's Barbershop in Seligman, Ariz.

Also, here's a quick recap of our journey with some money-saving tips for family road trippers:

On June 29, my family embarked on a great adventure--driving Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago. We took 15 days to do the trip and we gave ourselves a budget of $250 a day--a total of $3,750.

So, did we meet our goal? Barely. Our final total was $3,709.52 (Darn, I should have ordered that chocolate pie in Tulsa!) We had some help. My parents met us in St. Louis for two days and picked up the restaurant bills, and a friend sent $40 for a bottle of wine in Chicago. But generally we pinched pennies.

Here's what we learned:

1) Leave the SUV at home. If you own more than one car, opt for the auto that gets the best gas mileage. It costs less and it's better for the environment. (If we survived 15 days in a sardine can, you can too!)

2) Lighten your load. Carrying 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car's fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 percent. (My husband packed only one pair of shorts, one pair jeans, and a few shirts.) If you have cargo to haul, put it in the trunk instead of on a roof rack, which can decrease mileage by as much as 5 percent.

3) Inflate your tires. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and decrease fuel economy by as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.

4) Drive gently. Excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel economy, as does driving faster than highway speed limits. Teach your kids to read the speedometer; they'll enjoy making sure you stay under 70 mph.

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9 Things to do with Kids in NYC

August 15 2008 by Amy Graff
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centralpark.JPGOur family trip to NYC was a huge success. If you're headed for the Big Apple with your kids, here are some things to do.

1) Slurp up noodles at Momofuku. Does bringing the kids to a James Beard-award winning restaurant seem unlikely? Well, it's doable at Momofuku, a happening noodle joint that's so loud your kids can scream at the top of their lungs and no one will notice. Kids can split a bowl of chicken ramen ($12).

2) Wave hello to Miss Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry. On board this two-level ferry, you pass right by Lady Liberty. The free 25-minute ride takes you between Lower Manhattan and St. George on Staten Island.

3) Hang with the teeny bopper crowd at Legally Blonde. Little girls will love this high-energy musical about the ultimate princess, Elle Woods, who wears only pink and carries her Chihuahua in a rhinestone-studded bag.

4) Shop for European yogurts at Zabar's. You'll find cheeses, meats, olives, candies, and all sorts of other food from all over the world in this store that takes over an entire block. Kids will love the selection of rich and creamy European yogurts and mom and dad will appreciate the low prices.

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The Dreaded Vacation Sunburn

August 13 2008 by Mark Deyer
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sunburn.jpgThe best part of this time of year is soaking up the last few weeks of summer. But as much as you may want to soak up the rays, one thing certain to put a damper on your vacation is a sunburn.

When everything that touches your skin makes you cringe and you suddenly resemble a gigantic tomato, that's when you know you've overdone it. Not only is it an unpleasant situation for you on your vacation, but the long-term effects of over exposure to the sun is an even bigger problem. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunburn is not the only consequence faced by lack of sun protection. Pre-mature aging, wrinkles, skin cancer, and eye disease, such as cataracts, the leading cause of blindness, are all directly related to over exposure.

Before you reach tomato status, make sure you are following these three main lines of defense.

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Last Chance to Rock Your Summer with Best Western

August 11 2008 by BW Innsider

CampRock_TravelCard.jpg
This summer we partnered with the Disney Channel in sponsorship of their original movie, Camp Rock, starring the Jonas Brothers. If you haven't heard of this popular rock trio yet, chances are you are not a young teen or do not live with any. If you have kids, I am fairly certain you can get all the details from them. If you'd like some inside information so you look hip with the young generation, here is a head start (fyi, this came straight from the mouth of a 9-year old girl).

"Nick, Kevin and Joe are their names. They are brothers, but are not triplets. They are really, really nice. I am pretty sure Kevin is the oldest. Joe is my favorite because he likes releasing his inner nerd. I think Camp Rock is awesome. I loved it!"

You have one more week to get into the Camp Rock spirit and earn a $50 Camp Rock Travel Card. Best Western Rewards members that stay a total of six nights between June 20 and August 17 at any member hotel worldwide will receive a collectible $50 Camp Rock Travel Card. Even better, if you are a member of AAA or CAA and stay any five nights, you receive the $50 Travel Card.

Take advantage of this last chance to rock your summer.

Do Kids and Business Trips Mix?

August 7 2008 by Amy Graff

Have I mentioned that I'm actually on a business trip in NYC?

Several months back I was invited to participate in a panel on leisure travel. Only a two-hour commitment? My hotel and airfare provided? I wondered, should I bring the kids and husband along for a long weekend in New York? Why not? I booked plane reservations for four.

My decision isn't unusual. According to the National Business Travel Association, 62 percent of U.S. business travelers said they add a leisure component to at least one business trip per year. Among those travelers, two-thirds say they bring a family member or a friend with them. Why? As the American workplace becomes more flexible about letting employees juggle their duties with family life, people like me are finding it easier to bring their spouses and kids wherever their jobs may take them. What's more, family business trips are a great way to save--since the company is usually paying for a few nights of the hotel and airfare for at least one.

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Music's In The Air - Summer Music Festivals

August 7 2008 by Claudia Kunkel

SummerFestival.jpgJVC Jazz Festival - Newport, Rhode Island August 8-10, 2008

What better way to spend a hot, sultry August weekend than in Newport listening to the soulful sounds of jazz. The Newport Jazz Festival started in 1954 and is still going strong and has featured lineups from the great Miles Davis and Duke Ellington to the popular Chris Botti and Herbie Hancock. When you want a break from the music, Newport has the beautiful beaches, mansions and historic downtown to enjoy (the Best Western Mainstay is located just off of the historic downtown area). You can also choose from 11 other Best Western hotels in the vicinity of Newport.


Austin City Limits Music Festival September 26-28, 2008

Wind down the summer inside the city limits -the Austin City Limits that is. Three days, three stages and 130 bands make up this eclectic lineup of performers. Whatever your taste in music is, you can find it here. You can start with Foo Fighters, go to John Fogerty, skip over to Gnarls Barkley and finish with Erykah Badu. This year the sponsors of the festival are helping our planet go green by showcasing local non-profit environmental groups - so check it out. When night falls and you've had enough of the nightlife, there are 13 Best Western hotels in the Austin area including the Best Western Atrium North which is only a short drive away from the festival.

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YOU MUST SEE THIS - Top Sights in North America

August 6 2008 by Karla Henriquez
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Every year great travel publications and travel writers write up a list of the best sights to see and experience. With the launch of this new blog, we couldn't resist and came up with a list of our own. Here is our MUST SEE TRAVEL SIGHTS in NORTH AMERICA (to start, because taking on the whole world is a bit ambitious for our first round of posts). Here's what's top on our list, in no particular order, submit your own list and we will expand it over the next few weeks.

  • Golden Gate Bridge and Bay in San Francisco
  • The Grand Canyon in Arizona
  • Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Skyline in New York City
  • Three Sister Mountains near Canmore, Alberta - Canada
  • Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii
  • Tulum Ruins, Mayan Ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico
  • St. Louis Arch and the Mighty Mississippi in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Big Sur Coast line in Southern California
  • Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
  • Grafton, Vermont
  • Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

What else should be included on the list? Let us know.

Healthy Continental Breakfast'ing

August 5 2008 by Neal Mueller
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I've spent a lot of time on the road, sometimes for adventure, sometimes for business. I've visited all 7 continents. I even visited the only continent where Best Western doesn't have a full fleet of hotels (Antarctica). One year I traveled so much that I actually spent 250 nights in hotels! One of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. Sometimes I splurge (like chocolate mousse for breakfast in Paris), but more often than not I just want a healthy breakfast that will keep me going all day long. I put together a list of tips for all of you who are at the hotel continental breakfast bar wondering what is best to eat.

So next time you're on vacation don't let your nutrition go on vacation too. This list will help you decide what to eat and what to leave for the next guy.

  1. Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk (I like Cheerios in the morning). I avoid sugary muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal. High carbohydrate/sugar snacks such as these may improve my mood for a short time, but all that sugar makes me sleepy. Being sleepy is no good if you're the driver on a road trip or if you have a big day planned.
  2. Load up on the fresh fruit for vitamins and fiber. The eggheads over at the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute recommend we increase our fiber intake to 25 grams per day. Most Americans eat about a third of this amount. This grim fact may in part be responsible for America's high rate of heart disease, colon cancer and obesity. These diseases are practically nonexistent in places with a high intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try an apple and whole wheat toast for starters.
  3. Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein. Each has 5 grams of protein. Jimmy Dean sausage links have a bit more protein (7 grams) but also twice the saturated fat and twice the calories. My advice is to leave the links for the next guy (despite their yummy greasiness).
  4. If you are on a weight-loss regimen, avoid the condiments altogether. Condiments such as cream cheese, butter, jelly, and peanut butter are high in all the bad calories that you want limit such as simple sugars and saturated fats. Breads taste just fine all by themselves when toasted; try it. I do this for a few weeks prior to road bike season and it shaves pounds very quickly without requiring me to change any of my other nutritional habits (and vices).

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Historic Celebrations in Canada

August 2 2008 by Matthew Clyde

quebec_resized.jpgStill searching for an exciting destination this summer? Is Quebec on your short list? If not, move it to the top. This year marks Quebec's 400th anniversary and to celebrate the entire city will be hosting special events and exhibits year round with the main event taking place on July 3rd to mark the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in 1608. So if you haven't experienced this historic destination, this is the year to go! A great way to save on some of Quebec's best attractions is through the city's museum card. For only $50(CAD), the card offers admission to 18 museums for 3 consecutive days, two days of public transportation, and coupons for discounts at various Quebec City attractions. The Best Western City Centre/Centre-Ville and the Best Western Hotel L'Aristocrate offer great accommodations and special packages for your Quebec adventure. To get full details of all the celebration activities and events visit www.monquebec2008.com.

What are other destinations in Quebec that are must sees or even hidden gems? Let us know.

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the companies or entities before planning your trip.

Best Western for a Better World

August 2 2008 by BW Innsider

Being the World's Largest Hotel Chain has helped us realize just how big a world it is out there. It has also helped us realize that there is no shortage of opportunities to reach out and try and make it a better place.

Recently, Best Western has joined with World Vision, a leading global relief agency, to help children in need. As part of this program members and staff are joining to support children in poverty through monthly sponsorships.

Sometimes, problems seem so big it is difficult to feel that you can make a difference. One reason we joined with World Vision is that contributing a limited sum each month ($30/month) can go a long way to providing basics like food, safe water, health care and education. You can definitely see the difference you are making.

 If you are interested in joining with us to help, you can find more info here.

Summer of Discontent? Use the Force

August 2 2008 by Mike Mason
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angry traveler.jpg  Bad news travels fast. You may have heard that with recent airline mergers, bankruptcies and the like, you probably will have to start paying more for your bags, tickets, micro-zipped saltine crackers, headphones, pillows (just make sure you have that 5 bucks handy for the oxygen mask if there is ever a sudden change in cabin pressure). For those traveling for business, this probably means longer lines, crowded flights, and dreaded delays. Welcome to summer airline travel in 2008.

In the spirit of defiant optimism, here are a few tips for business travelers in the brave new world:

  • Arrive at the airport a day early...you will definitely be on time for your flight.
  • Fed Ex your luggage to your hotel. At least you will have reliable tracking if it gets misplaced.
  • If possible, travel with work colleagues and hold meetings on the plane...you can get a lot done in four hours waiting on the tarmac.
  • For a smooth return trip, click your heels together 3 times and repeat, "there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."
  • Just be grateful you aren't the guy who had to fly to his destination in the airplane lavatory.
  • Ensure you are never asked to stop for additional security checking by using your extraordinary psychic powers. Remember Obi-Wan, "these aren't the bags you're looking for."

What other off-beat ideas do you have to beat the summer travel frenzy? Let us know.