Fasten your seatbelts

How many times have you heard that? Fasten your seatbelts please, we are going through some turbulence. Um…. what happens if you don’t have a seatbelt because you don’t have a seat and you are sitting on the floor of the plane. That’s what happened to a British family flying from Menorca back to Britain.

They had their boarding passes with their seat numbers all in the same row together. Only problem was that row did not exist. The airline had had an “equipment change” which even the check in agent at the gate apparently did not know about as she checked their boarding cards. Does this sound unbelievable?

Well the same thing happened to me flying from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. We boarded the plane and could not find our row number. We stood around like lost sheep – the flight attendant told us to stand aside so others could board – so we huddled up against the bulkhead while everyone impatiently brushed passed us probably thinking to themselves “bloody fools – they should have booked their seats”.

Eventually the flight attendant told us that there had been an “equipment change” yep – so she was going to put us up front in business class ….


Until she realised we were travelling with two children. Then suddenly we were not OK to go into business class. We offered to throw the children out of the escape hatch or hide them in the overhead bins but that did not work. Instead four smug adult passengers were escorted up front and we were settled down eventually in our economy seats.

Seat selection is a very personal, very emotional issue for some people – especially on a longer flight and the playing field is changing. Often advance seat selection attracts a price to be paid and after that, what happens if there is an equipment change? The seat you carefully selected to be far away from the toilet might not exist any more – perhaps you even end up next to the toilet. Ah well – as the old song goes – Always look on the bright side of life! At least you won’t have far to walk. It’s all part of the fun… right? Nope ūüė¶

Airline food – how to do it

If you have ever wanted to know how to cook airline food here is your chance. United Airlines has released a cook book – yes that’s right. And no – it does not show you how to bake pretzels or roast peanuts. Admittedly it is based on the food served to its business class passengers (for the most part) – so quiet down all you hooligans in the back – and eat your pretzels!

Oh wait …. there’s more. They do have recipes for economy class food as well but one reviewer found them to be a lot of “oily pasta” dishes. Ah well – you can’t get it all people! This is science fiction you know – flying through the sky in a metal tube. C’mon.

So how good are the recipes – well overall the book has been received with a lot of hilarity….. One Mile at a Time (Tiffany) bought the book and checked out the recipes. Some of her thoughts are really funny ….

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Lebni, Saba, Hazelnut and Dill

‚ÄúBrussels sprouts get a crunchy makeover in this¬†adventurous starter. Quartering the sprouts allows them to fan out and achieve maximum crispness when fried, and dousing them in a few shakes of sweet Saba makes for the ultimate salty-sweet-sour bite.‚ÄĚ

This recipe calls for both a candy thermometer and a deep-fryer, both things commonly found on planes that definitely produce easily-reheated meals. “

Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket

‚ÄúNot a barbecue pit master? This savory centerpiece gives you the barbecue flavors you crave, but skips the smoke by sneaking in some liquid smoke with the braise instead.‚ÄĚ

The acknowledgement that Boeing doesn‚Äôt typically include smoke pits in the galley might be the most reasonable accommodation in this book.”

So I guess the book does point out that these recipes are inspired by the food served on United and not necessarily identical – so don’t worry – there isn’t a smoke pit on your next flight.

Seriously though – airline food is just one of those things that you just have to get over – or pack your own. And on that note – I really don’t like sitting next to someone who has brought their own meal on board – sometimes people just don’t really think. Just translate this to that person at work who heats up their left over fish stew in the staff room microwave…. right? Flight attendants have to deal with this all the time. In an article in Insider magazine –

” Joyce Foley, a flight attendant with Hawaiian Air, identifies the most common offenders of too-fragrant food as eggs, tuna fish, anything too garlicky, and fast-food burgers. “

If it smells good at ground level – you know it is probably going to stink to high heaven at 35.000 ft. And don’t even mention sushi!

Now before everyone shouts at once – I know that lots of people have food allergies and have to, of necessity, pack their own meals. It also helps when you are travelling with children to pack some snacks or even a meal just in case.

Trip Savvy website has some good advice on what to pack for example granola bars, dried fruit, crackers and hummus. But I was a bit amused when I read the tip for taking chilled items. They suggested taking a bag of frozen veggies to keep everything cool. A bag of frozen veggies! On a flight! Oh so that is why there was a packet of defrosted peas in the seat pocket!


Listen to the hand

Hands can talk – they can say a lot. They can be mean or they can make you blush. Think about your drive to work. It’s early morning, the Deerfoot is at its usual height of madness and in the lane next to you is a complete idiot who is trying to get into your lane. What the hell is he thinking of? Eventually you pull back a little to let him in just to get him out of the way and what does he do? ….

He flashes you the courtesy wave. Wow …. what a difference that makes. Suddenly he is not such a dufus….. just a busy (polite) guy trying to get to work.

But you have to be careful how you use hand signals – and if you don’t get it right you could look like a right twit. I love the story of Sir Winston Churchill who decided to adopt the “V” for victory sign at the beginning of the war. The only problem was he got it backwards. Here is an early photo of him ….

Well as one of his secretaries at the war office pointed out to him this was a rude sign (at least in England). When he asked exactly what it meant she softened it down and said it meant “Up your bum!”. (It actually is much worse than that.) That’s OK. Churchill was a quick learner and switched the V around so that it became respectable.

You might find yourself making a similar mistaken when you travel. For example – how often might you offer this hand signal when you don’t know the language …

As in – “thanks mate” … “good luck” …. Well don’t use this gesture in the Middle East or West Africa. It’s pretty much the same as “giving them the finger” if you know what I mean.

Ever find yourself crossing your fingers for good luck – well don’t do this in Vietnam. It is regarded as an extremely rude gesture. Nodding and shaking your head can also get you into trouble. Generally if you nod your head it means “yes” as in “Is this your round, mate?” Nod nod. Yes I will buy this round.

But it depends where in the world you are as Wikipedia explains –
“NOD …. To indicate refusal. There are few exceptions with some countries swapping¬†the meanings between¬†nodding¬†and shaking¬†head: in Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Bulgaria, Albania, and Sicily¬†a¬†single¬†nod¬†of¬†the head¬†up (not down) indicates¬†a¬†“no”. “

This all sounds pretty complicated – so maybe you can travel the world and get by with a smile to all concerned. …. Nope – sorry. Do this in Russia and they will all think you are a blithering idiot…. This was discussed in a recent article in Business Insider – one of the writers being Masha Garstein, a Professor of Psychology at Washington State University, who grew up and was educated in Moscow. The article explains in more detail …

” ………Masha ‚Äď is a Russian immigrant. She‚Äôll be quick to tell you that in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect. Of course, in the U.S. and many other countries, smiling is a common, reflexive gesture of goodwill.

There is, indeed, truth to the ‚Äúsmiling gap‚ÄĚ: In our psychology research, we‚Äôve noticed a striking difference in how often people smile in the United States when compared to Russia. To Americans, it might be easy to assume that this says something about Russians ‚Äď that they‚Äôre an unfriendly, callous people.

But that‚Äôs not the case at all. Instead, it‚Äôs worth looking at why certain expressions, like smiling, become a key part of social exchanges in some cultures and not others.”

It’s a fascinating article and is worth reading in full.

So what’s the lesson here? When in Rome* do as the Romans* do…. *substitute relevant country.

And if you don’t know what the Romans do – buy the book before you go and do your homework.

4th century A.D. — — Image by ¬© Bettmann/CORBIS

Funny travel stories

Oh boy – what a year! Thank you to all these intrepid travellers who gave us a chuckle during the year –

Ever worried about your belongings when they go through the x-ray machine? No problem – just buy a companion ticket and enjoy the ride

As seen at a train station in China. The lady was worried about putting her valuables through the x-ray so she just went along for the ride. Now I don’t know about you but I always try to avoid xrays as much as possible but then you never know what might happen to your bag when you are in there!!

Do you like going to the zoo? Would you travel all the way to this zoo in England?

The attraction at Exotic Zoo in Telford, Shropshire, cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and had been hotly anticipated ‚ÄĒ but can you see what was wrong with it? The penguins are fake!!!

Thinking of going on safari? Then do it properly and go to Africa – not a Safari Park…. because look what happened in Crimea. Visitors had a frightening experience when their buggy was charged by a lion …

Scary experience – right? Don’t worry – it has a happy ending. This two year old lion just wanted some cuddles.

And I love this story that was posted in Open Jaw – ladies – can you pee in a plastic bag?

“Airplane bathrooms can be an awkward place for some, but backed-up passengers rarely ever consider the unpleasant alternative. As Aristotle once wrote: “when you got to go, you got to go.” Unfortunately, during a long flight when an airplane’s toilets fail – things get messy.

This was a lesson that some unlucky Pax learned aboard a recent American Airlines flight when they were asked by cabin crew to pee into plastic bags and bottles. The incident occurred after the toilet became backed up during a six-hour AA flight from Phoenix, Az. to Kona, Hawaii.

Women in need were assigned bags, while men received bottles. The problem was created after one dumb passenger had attempted to flush a diaper down one of the plane‚Äôs toilets. The resulting clog forced the cabin crew to lock down the bathrooms and implement the plastic alternative.¬†¬†“

Silly ladies – they should have been prepared with their own Shewee in their bags …. and guess what? It’s on sale ladies- pre Boxing Day sale 40% off.

It’s a weird world out there

Sometimes when you travel anything that you see that is “different” might seem a bit weird.¬† I felt the same way when I first came to Canada.¬† Even though my first language is English it wasn’t “Canadian English” so I had to learn a whole new vocabulary – hood instead of bonnet, trunk instead of boot – and that was just with the car!¬† Goodness me – rubbish is actually garbage…. the list goes on.¬†¬†

But seriously – there are some very weird things to see and do out there in this big scary world – here are just a few of them ….

Mexico – you’ve heard of Mexico’s Day of the Dead … what about Night of the Radishes?¬† I am not joking.¬† This has been a thing in Mexico since 1897 – so 23 December each year is officially Night of the Radishes when expert radish carvers display their art work for the locals who sometimes buy the more intricate works of art as Christmas Centerpieces.

Finland – enter a competition where you can throw your cell phone as far as possible.¬† Ever felt tempted to do that?¬† Don’t do it in the office – just get on a plane and go to Finland – this is serious stuff (almost)¬†

Ireland Рa different kind of lottery.  Now I must admit Рeven though I am half Irish and still visit family there often I have never heard of this weird lottery in the coastal town of Cobh.  Apparently the day before the festival you buy as many of the coloured balls as you wish for Euro 2 each and then on the big day they are rolled down the hill and the four balls that cross the line first win some big prizes.  Each ball has a unique number.  The funny thing is the street where the balls are rolled down is called the Deck of Cards street because of the brightly painted houses stacked up against each other.   

And they’re off!

Australia – scared of creepy crawlies?¬† Well you might want to think twice before visiting Christmas Island.¬† Every year the island is covered with more than 40 million red crabs.¬† But why you ask?¬† Well they have to make the trek from the wet inland forests to the ocean – takes them 5 days and don’t think of getting in the way ….

Mmmm – not many takers for this one I think!

So what’s on your list for 2019?¬†¬†

OK – we won’t offer you these scary options in our newsletter – just those same great deals on long stays, cruises and tours.¬† But if you know anyone who would like to go hang out with 40 million crabs do let us know.¬† We are Aussie specialists you know!¬† G’Day and Happy Christmas!

That warm fuzzy feeling

Sometimes I think we live in a crappy world – just read the news …. so many bad things going on in the world – wars, poverty, corruption – and then just when you start feeling disillusioned some wonderful people do wonderful things to help restore our faith in humanity.

That was the week we had with some lovely stories guaranteed to give you that warm fuzzy feeling…

HEY YOU LEFT SOMETHING BEHIND ….¬† An American tourist on the way back to the airport in Thailand left USD 10.0000 CASH !!! in the trunk of the taxi he took.¬† At the same time that Jerry Hart realised his money was missing, the taxi driver¬†Veeraphol Klamsiri was cleaning his taxi after doing a few runs and found the bag containing the cash.¬† Can you imagine what a fortune this was to a taxi driver in Bangkok?¬† But did he hesitate?¬† Not for a minute.¬† He jumped back in his cab and drove to the airport to try and find out who had left the money in his taxi.¬† Klamsiri said he had never seen so much money in his life.¬† For the whole story go here

One interesting question raised in this article …. why would someone travel with nearly USD $10.000 cash – it was actually just under that – around $9,800.¬† More than that and you have to declare it…

CAN I OFFER YOU MY SEAT MA’AM ….. an absolutely wonderful story about a mom (Kelsey Zwick) travelling with her baby – a preemie who needs to travel with oxygen.¬† ¬†A gentleman (and I mean that in the true sense of the word) noticed the young mom with her baby, stroller and oxygen machine and instantly offered to change seats – and yes he was in first class and she was in economy.¬† By posting on social media Kelsey has now connected with the “passenger from 2D” …¬†
“Sooo… thank you. Not just for the seat itself but for noticing. For seeing us and realizing that maybe things are not always easy. For deciding you wanted to show a random act of kindness to US. It reminded me how much good there is in this world. I can‚Äôt wait to tell Lucy someday. In the meantime… we will pay it forward. AA 588 passenger in seat 2D, we truly feel inspired by your generosity.”

AIRPORTS CAN BE LONELY SAD PLACES …. think about it.¬† Not everyone is getting on a flight to go on a vacation.¬† Some people are travelling to get treatment, others are coming from or going to a sick relative or a funeral.¬† Look around the airport next time you travel.¬† When we get into big crowds we tend to shrink into an anonymous mold – stranger danger ….I have my own problems so leave me be …. so it is very heartwarming to read about acts of kindness that not only help heal but also are passed on to others in need.¬† It’s a good thing…. This story moved me ….

“It was one of the first weekends of December, I was returning from a funeral in my family, and an overall tough weekend emotionally.¬† Finals week was also looming and there was way too much on my mind.¬†¬† And despite the many thousands of people who were going about their business around me in the Portland airport, I never felt so alone.¬†¬† For the first time in a very stressful month, I was alone with my thoughts.¬† At that very moment, I found the nearest empty set of chairs, took a seat, and shed long-overdue tears.”

Read the whole story here 
and spread the love…. I guarantee – that warm fuzzy feeling lasts a long time.¬†¬†

The bigger the better?

Maybe not.  There is a move these days in the travel industry towards smaller …. smaller group sizes, smaller cruise ships, smaller hotels.  Maybe it is a reaction to the massive cruise ships now hosting over 6000 people.  Or those mega resorts like  the First World Hotel in Malaysia.  7351 rooms in this hotel – my goodness.  How on earth do they do room service in a hotel that size?

However the trend towards smaller is maybe being carried a little too far with a hotel in London offering the world’s smallest room – in fact smaller than a prison cell ….

The room in question is a single room at the Corbigoe Hotel in London.  Now we know how expensive London hotels can be so maybe this is a good thing for someone travelling solo and not wanting to pay a leg and two arms for a room.  
As reported in The Points Guy ….

“The room in question was marketed as a ‚ÄúSingle Room‚ÄĚ priced at¬†¬£55.00 (about $71) during the high season and ¬£30.00 ($39) during the low season. According to Which?, the bedroom measured just 32 square feet, making it smaller than an actual prison cell. For reference, the¬†American Correctional Association¬†says prison cells must be a minimum of 70 square feet, with 35 square feet reserved for open floor space.¬† ¬† Read the whole article here…. it’s funny!

So if you are happy with a small teeny tiny hotel room how about a teeny tiny car rental to go with it …. I think this one is kinda classy –

You have to have the hat and the pipe

Disney had the right idea – it’s a small world indeed ….


But maybe you are feeling a bit flush …. scored a win on the stock market or maybe you won the lottery?¬† Then who cares about saving a few dollars?¬† You can just go for the biggest and most expensive hotel room in the world – here are the top ten ….(courtesy of Lonely Planet) and what it costs per night.

  1. Royal Penthouse Suite,¬†President Wilson Hotel, Geneva¬†‚Äď US$80,000¬†(‚ā¨68,290)
  2. Five-bedroom Terrace Suite,¬†The Mark, New York¬†‚Äď US$75,000 (‚ā¨64,021)
  3. Penthouse Suite,¬†Grand Hyatt Cannes, Martinez¬†‚Äď US$53,200 (‚ā¨45,412)
  4. Penthouse,¬†Faena Hotel, Miami¬†‚Äď US$50,000 (‚ā¨42,681)
  5. Hilltop Villa,¬†Laucala Island, Fiji¬†‚Äď US$45,000 (‚ā¨38,413)
  6. Grand Riad,¬†Hotel Mansour, Marrakech¬†‚Äď US$43,480 (‚ā¨37,115)
  7. Penthouse Suite,¬†Hotel Cala Di Volpe, Sardinia¬†‚Äď US$41,177 (‚ā¨35,149)
  8. Royal Suite,¬†The Plaza, USA¬†‚Äď US$40,000 (‚ā¨34,145)
  9. Princess Grace Suite,¬†Hotel De Paris, Monaco¬†‚Äď US$37,000 (‚ā¨31,584)
  10. Suite 5000,¬†Mandarin Oriental New York, New York¬†‚Äď US$36,000 (‚ā¨30,730)

Oh and if you HAVE won the lottery …. I know a good travel agent …. wink wink