It’s just getting harder

Nothing is easy these days.  Remember in the early days of the internet – wow this was going to be a Brave New World.  Everything was going to be just within a click – connecting with friends, doing business at the speed of light, shopping online, spending money without ever leaving the house or office.

So what happened?  Now it is a jungle out there.   Weird emails are so yesterday – now I get texts to my mobile phone warning me about “mistakes” in my latest cell phone bill or, even more laughable, links to photos that I don’t want to have shared online unless I pay in bitcoin.  I wouldn’t even know a bitcoin if I saw it and – yep – I am WAY to old to have compromising photos of myself online.  

Damn… I paid good bitcoin not to have this published

This internet jungle thrives in the world of travel and you can never be too careful.  These last couple of weeks the stories have been coming fast and furious.

First there was the lady who thought she was booking with the airline but instead she was booking with CheapFlightsFares in the USA – a company that has been reported to the Better Business Bureau on more than one occasion.  https://globalnews.ca/news/4662739/calgary-woman-warning-online-flight-booking/

Then there is the problem of that notorious message that appears on the screen when you have gone through the whole ticket process, entered the name, date of birth and the form of payment – only to receive this notification –
“your request could not be completed at this time”…. 

When you see that DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.  There are numerous examples online and this happens with many airlines.  It is a computer problem and the techies claim that this may be due to your browser or too many cookies or whatever – but don’t assume that you do not have a ticket – check your credit card statement and if necessary phone the airline.  If you do not turn up for the flight it is regarded as a “no show” and there will be no refunds at all.

And it is not just flights – hotel booking sites are also implicated.  Want a luxury hotel for cheap?  Well there’s an app for that!   Hackers are offering luxury hotel rooms for dirt cheap…. how do they do it? According to this article they hack into reward programs and other dubious methods to offer up “unbelievable” deals.  https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/wj35yb/how-hackers-sell-luxury-hotels-cheap-discount-loyalty-points-airlines

I had a real chuckle reading this article as it even contained a screen shot as follows –

Wow – they even have to advertise on a  crime forum site!

Oh and yes – you have to pay in Bitcoin – way to make it even more difficult.

I miss the good old days of letters in envelopes and dare I say the old telex machine!  How many out there know what I am talking about?

Hey you, wake up!

Did you see on the news the story about the man who was taken off his Westjet flight because he took a pill and fell asleep on his wife’s lap.  Here is the story 

What do you think?  There are many people who may be ill or nervous about flying – maybe they take a pill to help with stress but if it is a sleeping pill that might be a problem for staff.  Apparently you have to be up and awake and alert during the safety briefing.

Umm – how many safety briefings have you sat through on a flight where people are reading their books and not paying attention.

And the other problem is what about once you are up and airborne there are many people I know of who take pretty strong sleeping pills so as to get through the flight.  If there was a problem mid-air then would these people be deemed a danger?

Now I don’t know about you but for me the minute we start the take off I just start feeling really sleepy.  The best time for me to have a snooze is during take off which is quite handy because it gives me a good 40 minutes or so before the beverage cart comes around 🙂  It is something to do with the vibration of the plane, the push back as the plane takes off, maybe the pressure.  But apparently I have been doing it all wrong …

“Health website MedlinePlus has revealed that it can cause some serious health problems.  Sleeping during take off and even landing can prevent passengers from stopping their ears from popping whilst being unconscious.

Travellers are recommended to do this due to the air pressure rapidly changing as the plane gains height.

By not doing this, it can cause permanent damage to the ears.”  according to an article in the UK newspaper the Express.

how-to-pop-your-ears-720x340

OK so on my next flight I am not going to fall asleep – I am going to swallow, yawn and do the Valsalva Maneuver …. what the heck is that?

valsalver

Oh that!  That’s easy to do.  So pinch your nose and pop those ears and whatever you do – don’t fall asleep at take off….  just keep an eye on what that damn pilot is up to….

baby

 

Well that was a week!

My goodness me – what a week this has been in the airline industry.

We heard the news that it seems bikini clad flight attendants are very very successful – at least for Viet Jet who have ordered 50 additional jets.  Yes – you heard that right – bikini clad flight attendants.  OMG – how last year can you get?  This is like Playboy here we go again!  And to make matters worse – this airline is run by a woman!  And these poor girls have to spend their day on board looking like this –

viet-jet2-2

Shame the girl in the back on the left looks distinctly uncomfortable and even her stockings are sitting unevenly.

Then a sleeping man was ordered off a Westjet flight bound for Cuba.  Their holiday is ruined and all because the flight attendant thought he was a risk to other passengers and crew because he could not be roused.  Well I can totally see where the flight attendant was coming from.  If the passenger could not be roused by the staff it is concerning.  However medical staff present said the passenger was good to fly …. so who knows?

According to The Points guy – WestJet is standing by the actions of its crew. The airline stated that Bennett’s condition prohibited him from taking his original flight to Havana. According to WestJet, the removal of Bennett was done out of “an abundance of caution.” The statement made by airline also took into account Canada’s federal regulations that prohibit passengers who are significantly impaired as a result of “the consumption or use of alcohol or drugs prior to boarding.” A spokesperson from the airline stated that Bennett and his family were offered alternative accommodations. These accommodations meant that the Bennett family would be required to take the fight between Toronto and Havana a week later.

More Westjet news …. now you have to pay for your bags when you go on a Westjet Vacation…

“WestJet Vacations updates baggage fees

Effective November 5, 2018, WestJet Vacations is updating its checked baggage fees to align with WestJet’s overall baggage policy. Guests travelling with WestJet Vacations on or after December 3, 2018 will be subject to a $30-35.40 CAD/USD fee for their first checked bag. This change only applies to bookings made on or after November 5, 2018 for travel on or after December 3, 2018.

If your clients booked their WestJet Vacations package before November 5, 2018, their first checked bag will be included as per our previous policy. If you need to make a change to a booking that was made before November 5, 2018, please call the Travel Support Team (TST) at 1-877-664-3205 and a member of the TST will ensure the original baggage policy is applied.

For your clients that are looking for a more inclusive experience, our Premium fare includes two checked bags, extra leg and elbow room in a Premium cabin seat and more. WestJet Rewards members in the Gold tier get their first and second checked bags free. This benefit is valid for the Rewards member and up to eight (8) additional guests travelling on the same reservation*. WestJet RBC® Mastercard cardholders also get the first checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to eight (8) additional guests on the same reservation.”

Are we going the Ryan Air route when it was once suggested by their charismatic Chief Executive Michael O’Leary that people on his planes should pay to pee!  This went the rounds back in 2009 and was finally dropped back in 2011 – BUT YOU NEVER KNOW!

Oh my goodness – can you imagine the lengths people would go to in order to not spend a penny (‘scuse the pun).  Depends would be sold out at every airport store and an empty bottle might come in handy.  Ew…. don’t let’s go there.

 

 

 

This bunny bites

Maybe you should think twice before you choose your Instagram or twitter handle.  This one really made me laugh.  @thisbunnybites.  Yes there is someone out there with this handle.  It actually belongs to a lady who went ballistic when she thought that she had been robbed by American Airlines.   When she opened up her bag only to find it filled with airline paraphernalia …. as per the photo she posted online…

Anna Knight suitcase

In fact she had taken the wrong suitcase and her suitcase was waiting at the airport.  But this was after she had vented online –

anna knight remarks

In fairness she posted an apology afterwards and said that maybe it was the jet lag.  You have to sympathise with that and it is rather unusual that someone from the airline had used a bag so similar to her own to store runway equipment clothing.

The funny thing to me is her twitter handle – yes this bunny bites – that’s for sure.

But this lady had a real problem – people taking the wrong bag off the carousel.  How many times don’t you see people halfway pulling a case off the carousel only to dump it back on because they realise it is not their suitcase.  That’s why you see such a proliferation of ribbons and scarves tied to luggage to make it stand out.  Some people are even going for a very personalised look –

image suitcase

Others are getting techy and using tracking devices.  For me I would think that I would prefer to stop the problem before it started and try to at least make my luggage look unique with luggage straps and tags.

funny luggage tag

So this way your luggage will stand out and you won’t need to post frustrated tweets from this bunny bites or similar.

There’s a strong wind blowing…

What to do?  It’s hurricane season and they are coming fast and furious this year.  For the poor people whose homes are hit by hurricanes of course this is a calamity beyond compare – however being in the travel industry hurricanes bring their own chaos to airlines, hotels and ships.

So what to do if you are booked to go on vacation during the hurricane season?  Depends what kind of vacation and who you are booked with.  Most tour operators have a pretty flexible policy with regard to their packages down in Mexico or the Caribbean.  They offer options such as postponing, changing destination or some even offer a credit which would be valid for one year.  Clearly they don’t want to send their passengers down there – or their aircraft – to be damaged or hurt.  But it is hurricane season after all ….This is why you will often see packages being offered at a much cheaper rate during the hurricane season which typically runs from August through to beginning of November.

I took a peek at a couple of the webcams at Puerto Vallarta resort hotels and it looked very overcast and rainy 😦 not the greatest for a vacation.  The pool area was deserted – I guess people are preparing for the hurricane which is good that they are taking precautions.

Now what happens if you are down there during a hurricane?  Rest assured, resort staff have generally been through this before and there are protocols in place to ensure the safety of staff and guests.  This is a good article that explains exactly how hotels operate Hurricanes and hotel guidelines.

One thing that is important in all of this is your co-operation.  If you are told to evacuate do it!  Local authorities will make shelters available if necessary.  Hotels may ask you to congregate on the lower level of the hotel or in the basement.  The last thing you need to do is to go out onto your balcony or down to the beach to take photos to post on Instagram ….
stupid hurricane photo

I was in Tahiti once when a Tsunami alert was raised.  I thought the telephone operator was joking …. but no … we had to leave our rooms and assemble in the lobby of the hotel while we waited and waited.   Nothing happened – I am happy to report – although we did feel the need to order a bottle of Champagne while we waited!

What about if you are going on a cruise? Now with a cruise you are in the more fortunate position of being able to be moved.  Cruise lines will often change their itineraries at the last-minute which has already happened with Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines – passengers on their Mexican Riviera itineraries will now be visiting San Francisco and San Diego.  And when on a cruise ship you are in the lucky situation of being able to outrun the hurricane –

“Ships sailing the Caribbean during hurricane season have an out — they can move. … Cruise ships can typically “outrun” a hurricane — storms tend to move about 8 to 10 knots, while ships can attain speeds of up to 22 knots and beyond. Passengers might experience rough seas as their ship skirts the edges of a storm.”  (courtesy Cruise Critic).

So if you are outrunning a hurricane on a ship you are probably OK (unless you get seasick)

seasickness

But it is likely to be a bit windy up on deck.  However there are those who just love the challenge of being in the centre of weather’s worst moments.  One of my fellow passengers on a recent cruise on Star Clipper told me with relish about his trans-Atlantic crossing.  Ropes had been strung across the public areas for passengers to hang on to and the tables in the dining room remained unset for obvious reasons.  Hmmm –  I think I am a fair weather traveller …. so thanks but no thanks!

 

 

Anything to declare?

So pot, weed, cannabis – whatever you want to call it – becomes legal in Canada on 17th October.  The law says that on that date ….

“The federal legislation will:

  • allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of legally-produced cannabis
  • allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household
  • set the minimum age for purchase and use at 18 years of age, with the option for provinces to increase the age limit
  • enable a regulatory regime for the licensed production of cannabis, which would be controlled by the federal government
  • enable a regulatory regime for the distribution and sale of cannabis, which would be controlled by the provincial government
  • establish new provisions to address drug-impaired driving, as well as making several changes to the overall legal framework to address alcohol impaired driving”

So the one that jumps out to me above is the lawful ability to carry up to 30 grams of legally-produced cannabis.  But when they say “carry” where do they mean you can carry this cannabis?  Well – just within Canada and yes you can carry it on a flight – but only if it is for “medical” reasons.

https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en/item/medical-marijuana

Now I am sure you have chatted with friends or family who have been prescribed medical marijuana – in fact card-carrying marijuana patients have been around for a while – the difference being that from 17 October you can have it for fun – relaxation – whatever – and not necessarily for medical needs.

marijuana cartoon

But it has drawn a lot more attention to this issue and as travel agents we have been asked this question a few times now and frankly people seem confused.

So it’s OK to carry the stuff (as long as you have the prescription) on a flight within Canada – fine – but what happens if your flight is diverted (as they so often are) into a US airport.  Mmmm.

Edmonton Airport website makes no bones about what might happen in this situation –

“Important: If you are legally travelling within Canada with cannabis, and your flight is diverted into the United States, you may be required to disembark from the aircraft and go through the customs process. If this occurs, you must immediately contact the Canadian Embassy at 1-844-880-6519. You may be arrested and detained in the United States.”

Now if you have seen a few of those border patrol episodes you clearly don’t want to have to go through that scenario.  Sorry USA friends – but those USA immigration and customs people scare the hell out of me and always make me feel like I have done something wrong.  I just don’t need that hassle.

But – apart from those who like a little marijuana oil to sleep or calm “anxiety” let’s face it there are a lot of people out there with serious medical issues who really really need that marijuana to help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis, asthma and epilepsy to name but a few.

I guess this is just Chapter One in a long story still being written.

potheads2

This is a special picture added for Gavin –

bill and ben

“As Bill & Ben the flower pot men use to say, “hello weed!”…”  – our British friends will know what we are talking about.

 

It’s what you eat

Are you an adventurous eater?  Do you try new foods all the time?  When I watch intrepid travellers like the amazing Anthony Bourdain tucking into strange foods I am constantly amazed by their bravery.  I have to admit I am a wuss when it comes to strange food.  I could never really get through that regular episode on the Amazing Race when they would have to eat weird stuff.

I am told that I am missing out and that I should be more adventurous.  What about you?  Here are some strange foods that you may come across on your travels – how do they rate?

PERU – could you eat a guinea pig?  Yes – those sweet little creatures that your kids keep in a little cage in their bedrooms.  In Peru they are a delicacy and you can even get them on a pizza.  Not sure what the Italians would think of that!

guinea pig

BRITAIN – could you eat a sausage made of blood?  Well hang on a minute now – this is one weird delicacy that I absolutely love – Black Pudding.  Maybe it is because I grew up in England and having no preconceived ideas about Black Pudding I ate it with relish.  I probably didn’t realise what it was at the time.  I was only little at the time.

CAMBODIA – scared of spiders?  How about a bowl of crispy tarantulas.  Gobble those down and it should put paid to your fears forever (or kill you!).  I have been to Cambodia – I have NOT tried this dish which apparently tastes like crab.  It came into use during the Khmer Rouge regime and you know, I get it. If I was starving I wouldn’t be too fussy.  Today it is a popular snack.

UKRAINE – just a piece of fat – that’s Salo.  Slabs of fat, smoked and stored for a year in the cool before being sliced off and eaten on rye bread.  Now before you turn your nose up – I can relate.  In England having lard from the roasting pan smeared onto a piece of bread was a treat second to none.

SCOTLAND – yes the noble haggis.  The ingredients are enough to turn your stomach (liver heart and lungs with oatmeal all trussed up in a sheep’s stomach)  but oh my goodness – the taste is to die for!  Yum.

haggisaddresstoned

FRANCE – yes snails.  I know, I know.  I don’t get it but many do.  In fact funny story.  Growing up in Cornwall England we noticed people combing the old stone walls of the fields for snails.  Our English snails were so plump and well nourished that they fetched a pretty penny in the fancy restaurants in France.

SOUTH AFRICA – crocodile pies.  Fresh from a bakery in Hout Bay, Cape Town.  Crispy pastry on the outside – a sinister greenish look on the inside – but very tasty nevertheless.  Rather like a fishy kind of chicken if that makes sense.

TAIWAN – grilled chicken buttholes.  Yes you read that correctly.  During my research I came across this entry ….

“I’ve eaten quite a few strange foods on my travels- all manner of bugs in SE Asia, a horse burger in Slovenia. In Iceland, I tried whale, puffin and reindeer in the same meal. On a walking food tour in Morocco I peeled back the face of a sheep to get to roasted meat underneath. But nothing to me was stranger than the time I ate grilled chicken buttholes on a stick in Taipei, Taiwan.”  Nathan from Foodie Flashpacker

CHINA – insect food and more things just defying description

insect-food-2-960x720

What has been your bravest culinary moment?  Do tell….