A perfectly planned business trip is sort of like a finely tuned watch. There are a lot of moving parts, but if one tiny pin or wheel stops working, the watch stops.
The same goes for a business trip. An unplanned traffic jam, a thunderstorm over the airport, a missed wake up call, and yes, even an outbreak of the swine flu can stop your trip in its tracks.
Sometimes travel glitches are no one's fault. That's when you've got to roll with the punches and make the best of a bad situation like everyone else. But at other times, it makes sense to write a letter and seek to resolve the issue when it's clear that someone has goofed up.
Do you think you've got a good case? Don't keep those feelings bottled up or start a negative word-of-mouth campaign. Write a letter and give the supplier the opportunity to make good. Here's some advice on writing that first email or letter:
Ever heard of Winnipeg, Manitoba? For those of you outside of Canada, it's not unlikely that you have never heard of this friendly city located on the eastern edge of the Canadian Prairies.
What may surprise you is that Winnipeg plays host to one of the largest musical events of its kind in all of North America - the Winnipeg Folk Festival, held at the sprawling and beautiful grounds of Birds Hill Provincial Park which is located northeast of Winnipeg. The festival consists of 4 days, 7 stages and over gifted 250 artists. And it's not just all about folk music - there's something to catch anyone's fancy at this festival, including craft markets, international foods, and a number of programs especially for kids. It's an event to remember and a wonderful way to get out and enjoy live music, culture camping and food as a family.
This had to be the ultimate business trip on a motorcycle.
As reported in the Gettysburg Times and elsewhere, Jordan's King Abdullah II took some time off during his visit to the United States recently to ride his Harley-Davidson through West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He even made a stop at Battlefield Harley-Davidson in Gettysburg, and bought several t-shirts.
Apparently, the King rides at home in Jordan, and wanted to explore our Civil War sites during a break from discussing Middle East peace with President Obama in Washington. He traveled with several other motorcyclists, and his security detail rode along on their own motorcycles.
As the weather north of the 49th parallel begins to heat up, hockey nets have taken up their permanent fixture and the kids have officially declared the start of road hockey season. Shouts of "car!"and "game on!" are echoing around neighbourhoods.
Although I still participate weekly in a men's ice hockey league, I have to admit I haven't played road hockey in years. But that is about to change.
I just heard about a great event that "Hockey Night in Canada" has organized nationally called "Play On" - The Official Canadian Road Hockey Championship and outdoor hockey festival. The event is happening between May 23 and the end of August in a dozen cities across the country, where downtown urban areas will be converted into a series of outdoor street rinks. You can register as a team of five and prices ranges from $30 - $50 per player. Check it out.
After posting my last blog about Lesser Known National Parks of the Midwest, I started thinking about other parks and refuges around the country that may not be as well known as they should be. Or, maybe that's part of their charm, lesser known, more intriguing. This particular park was brought to our attention by one of our You Must Be Trippin' readers so, we thought it would make a good spotlight.
J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on a subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel is located 15 miles southwest of Ft. Myers, Florida. I knew that any park or refuge with a name like that must have a story behind it. I wasn't disappointed! I like to think that I've been environmentally conscious for quite a few years now, but Jay Norwood Darling was well ahead of the curve when it comes to being green. I discovered that Darling was a well-known nationally syndicated cartoonist working for the Des Moines Register and was honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and l942. As an avid hunter and fisherman, Darling was concerned about the loss of natural wildlife habitats and the extinction of many species. At Mr. Darling's urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel Wildlife Refuge in 1945 which was renamed in 1967 to the J.N."Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
So here we are. Six months since the bottom fell out of financial markets last October. Finally, the economy seems to be mimicking the spring season and producing tiny little green shoots of growth here and there.
This means that a lot of business travelers who may have been ordered by their companies to stay home and hunker down might be getting out and about for the first time this year in coming weeks.
A lot has changed in the last six months. Some observations from my recent trips and research:
Highway traffic is down slightly. While there are still bottlenecks during daily rush hours and before and after holiday weekends, the volume of cars on the road feels about right. Not too many cars. And not too few. There's no longer that rushed, panicked and packed scenario or rogue traffic jams most of us faced during this last "bubble."
For many NASCAR fans a traditional vacation just won't cut it. With vacation time at a premium, many folks are resorting to weekend road trips to satisfy the travel bug. For NASCAR fans this means weekend pilgrimages to race tracks all around the country. If you're new to the sport or just haven't made it around to a track yet, here are my top 5 favorite NASCAR tracks to spend the weekend at:
1) Bristol Motor Speedway - Bristol, TN. Bristol is a Mecca for NASCAR fans. With room for nearly 160,000 spectators around its 1/2 mile racetrack, it rivals any college football experience. Bristol features high banking on a short track oval that always makes for very exciting racing. Turn #2 at Bristol in 1990 was the scene of Best Western Racing driver Michael Waltrip's most spectacular crash. Waltrip's car was reduced to a pile of rubble and he amazingly walked away from the wreck virtually uninjured. With races being held every year in March and August, it is the perfect way to kick off your travel season in the spring or close it out at the end of summer.
You're never too old to learn the hula. As long as your hips can take it. And your sacroiliac doesn't give out.
My lesson came from a charming young woman at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the north shore of Oahu, far from the crowds of Hawaii's largest city, Honolulu. The center, the primary tourist destination on the north side of the island, is a showcase for the seven different Polynesian cultures from Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, the Marquesas, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti.
Kids love dinosaurs. Not sure why. But it seems universal from my experience. I loved them as a kid too. There something about the idea of knowing monsters roamed around the planet that captures the imagination of both young and old. And finding their bones laying around? Come on!
As an alternative to the usual family destinations this summer, visit a dinosaur park. As a kid I visited Dinosaur National Monument located along the Utah and Colorado border. I was amazed at seeing "real deal" dinosaur bones sticking right out of the ground. The monument makes you feel more like you are exploring an actual dig than touring a museum. It adds a bit of the outdoor Indiana Jones exploration to it (if you are a kid, this doesn't seem to be a stretch). You also get first hand insight into how the bones are discovered, extracted, and studied.
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Once my friends know how to ride, they're ready to start shopping for a bike. Though it is possible to start out on a large displacement motorcycle, most experts will advise new riders to begin with a bike with a smaller engine, 500 cc or less. This is especially good advice for smaller riders, because in general, the smaller the engine, the lighter the bike. A lighter bike is easier to handle, move around the garage, and keep upright at a standstill.
Summer is coming up fast. And Best Western wants to help you get ready for your summer vacation. Earn a $50 Best Western Travel Card® to use towards your summer vacation when you stay twice between now and June 14, 2009.
Nothing throws a wet blanket over a trip faster than discourteous companions. They're rude, inconsiderate, embarrassing and completely unconcerned about the distress they dump on others. Over the years, I have encountered many of them, but two were unforgettable.
At a restaurant in Munich, an elderly female co-traveler asked a waiter for a glass of water. Since most restaurants in Germany serve bubbly mineral water instead of plain water, he brought her a glass of that. She loudly proclaimed, in English, that she wanted just plain water, not soda water, and ordered him to make the change. He brought her another glass of bubbling water, sat it in front of her and said, in German, "Wasser."
Being mobile while on the road hasn't also been so easy.
At the turn of the 21st century, I was an early adopter of the Blackberry. Quite basic, it offered a black-and-white screen to display emails and the phone worked relatively well. I upgraded a few years later to a newer Blackberry that offered a color screen and showed "clipped" versions of Web pages.
But three years ago, I gave up on my Blackberry, and switched to a Nokia phone, as they were known to provide the best reception in areas with weak signals - which included my office. While it worked like a charm, it alas was not a Blackberry, and I missed the handy-dandy mobile access to my email, especially when on the road.
IValue can be defined as a function of price and quality. In Canada, I am suggesting that we have a rare situation, caused by the economic downturn, where both factors are working positively together to produce an enhanced value equation.
My crystal ball indicates that this will last until September 9, 2009. Although this date seems random, it is six months from the date that it appears the Toronto Stock Exchange hit bottom. Experts seem to agree that markets are six months ahead, telling me the world will be right again around September 9th.
So the clock is ticking for you to get a great deal, exceptional service and in turn, the best value for your trip. But there's an interesting phenomenon happening out there, where people who have money to spend are trying to hide it. Coined "stealth wealth", it is affecting the travel industry too, as a growing faction of would be travellers are feeling guilty about the notion of vacationing during this economic downturn.
Hands down, my favorite destination I've visited to date is Greece. Not only for its unbelievable beauty and charm, rich culture and delicious food, and not only because I married into a 1/2 Greek family (hence my last name that I get asked about all the time!) but for the indescribable magic I felt - and you will feel - when you visit Greece for your first time...specifically, the Greek Isles.
Spending time in the Greek Isles is almost euphoric, fantasy-like.. like stepping into a magical world. You know those images that come to mind when you think of Greece - the ones you see in fancy travel magazines or in movies such as Mamma Mia! ? The white washed buildings, hypnotizing azure blue water, breathtaking cliffs? I always thought that cameras and computers had made those images look so impressive and attractive... nope - that is what the Greek Isles really look like.
When my friends find out that I ride a motorcycle, some of them are horrified. "It's so dangerous!" I remind them that life is dangerous, that driving a car is dangerous, that walking down a busy sidewalk is dangerous, and yet we somehow manage every day. I have spent years honing my motorcycle riding skills, and I don't take unnecessary risks. It's all about managing risk, and risk versus reward. The rewards of motorcycling are great, and, for me, more than worth the risk.
When my other non-riding friends talk with me about motorcycling, some of them are intrigued. A few have even asked my advice about getting started on a motorcycle.
I always recommend that my friends take a riding class before committing to motorcycling. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has a great program, the Basic RiderCourse, available in most parts of the United States. Many locations have motorcycles available for loan or rental in coordination with the classes, so you can see if riding is for you before you invest a significant chunk of cash on a bike.
During an overnight stay at our home, a well-traveled senior citizen couple from North Carolina mentioned that they go volkswalking in some of the towns and cities they select as destinations. They said it's helping keep them in shape while they're on an extended tour of the United States.
Volkswalking is not specifically designed for seniors, but many in our age group find it challenging and rewarding because it's a good way to exercise while making new friends. The American Volkssport Association (AVA) was founded in 1976 to promote non-competitive physical fitness, friendship and fun. There are now more than 320 active clubs in the U.S., and they present thousands of volkssporting events every year.
Earlier this week, I was in my car listening to the radio and an ad came on referencing the $1,350 tax credit available to Canadians against the cost of anything related to "home improvement." The Home Renovation Tax Credit is a key part of our economic stimulus plan to get Canadians spending in industries hurt during the downturn.
A few minutes later, I had one of those "a-ha" moments. Why not give taxpayers (both individual and corporate) a break against the cost of travel? This may seem a bit selfish coming from the guy who is a part owner of a travel agency group, but seriously, what would help kick-start the economy like people getting out flying, driving, eating in restaurants and staying in hotels?
The last time I visited Washington D.C., my plane arrived at dusk. On the way to meet friends for dinner, my host recommended we stop by the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I had never seen. It was a humid night and it was just beginning to sprinkle. The cicadas were out. I quietly walked through the field, looking into the faces of the soldiers all around me. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion and I regretted knowing so little about this conflict or what the experience was like for those who fought in Korea. I pledged to learn more.
As much as business travelers tug on one end of their travel dollars, suppliers are tugging just as much on the other. That means travelers need to be on the lookout for new fees. In a recent TripAdvisor poll of 5,000 travelers, 34 percent said they are facing more hidden fees than they did last year.
AIRLINES: By now, you've heard all about the nearly universal $15 fee for the first checked bag. But did you know that on most airlines, you now pay $150 to change your ticket...whether you bought it or redeemed frequent flyer miles for it? Here's a helpful chart from Kayak.com that should help you keep track.
Taking time to get away as winter thaws and spring warms up is an annual rite. But where to go to get the most out of spring break? Whether you are heading to a beach, experiencing nature, losing yourself on the open road or just taking a quick trip close to home we want to know where the best places are to celebrate spring.
To submit your Best Spring Break Getaway Ideas (and at the same time enter for a chance to win a $100 Best Western Travel Card® ), select the Comment button and enter in your response to the question, "What are your best spring break getaway destination ideas?" Once you enter a comment you are entered into a random drawing for one commenter to win a $100 Best Western Travel Card!
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The contest promotion ends on April 30, so sumbit your travel ideas today.
Riding a motorcycle is all about managing risk. But what happens when you park your bike - especially overnight at a hotel? How can you manage the risk of motorcycle theft while you're asleep?
Back in the good old days, I used to stay at roadside motels where I could pull my bike up on the sidewalk directly outside my window, and keep one ear peeled for any bike rustlers. Some guys I knew even rode their beloved choppers into their rooms. I had a cousin who claimed that he once rebuilt his Harley's transmission in a motel bathtub during a cross-country trip. Now that I'm staying in nicer places, I've had to develop other, more socially acceptable strategies to protect my Sportster.
Are you looking for something fun and educational to do with your kids, or even just for yourself? Visiting aquariums is still a popular pastime around the world, but it is one that we often forget about and take for granted. The beauty and wonder of sea life is something that will never grow old and something people of all ages can appreciate. Most major cities in North America have a decent aquarium, here are three that are well worth visiting if you're in the area.
Spring has arrived in most parts of the country or is at least around the corner, which turns my thoughts to summer and vacations. This year with the uncertainty of the economy, families may be considering vacations a little closer to home or possibly to parts of the country that may not be as crowded or as well-known. National Parks are always a favorite of summer travelers, but can be extremely crowded and difficult to find lodging. So, I've set out to list a few lesser known National Parks in the Midwest, a part of the country I am familiar with.
The Navajo Code Talkers are part of our generation because they, like us, are now seniors. So paying tribute to their heroic deeds is a worthwhile trip that not only honors some relatively unsung war heroes, but also takes senior travelers to many of the places we used to read about in National Geographic.
This weekend, the best college basketball event and arguably the greatest tournament in sports will crown a champion at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. That's right; the final games of March Madness have arrived.
For those Canadians like me who are NCAA college basketball fans (and there are plenty of us out there), the four hour drive means the final event has never been so close! It's the perfect opportunity for this sports fan to scratch off another of "the events I must see before dying" list.
I mentioned in a post last week how tourism interest in Mumbai, India has spiked with the recent interest in Oscar winner Slum Dog Millionaire. India is a big place with lots to see. You probably have heard of the Taj Mahal or the Ganges...but there are lots of fascinating, less discovered spots. My brother spent a fair amount of time in India and shared some insight into a few of the amazing, less discovered, places.
I recall my first trip to India, a short fifteen years ago. I remember stuffing stacks of travelers' checks and US currency into concealed pockets in my luggage and my pants. I remember sitting at banks for four or five hours to get cash advances charged to my credit card. Computers hadn't arrived, then, and Indian banks were still using accountants and ledgers. I remember discovering by missing a bus that Hindi uses the same word for "tomorrow" and "yesterday". That India barely exists anymore. Nowadays, there are globally linked ATMs in every Indian city, so there's no need to take travelers' checks, no need to spend half a day in a bank, and no need to use a credit card to get cash injections. Even in Vrindavan, a tiny town, well off the typical tourist track, you can now go to an ATM machine and withdraw cash in Indian currency directly from your own checking account. You might still misunderstand your booking agent and miss a bus, but you'll be able to buy a ticket for the next bus without any trouble.
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