Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Days in Portland, Oregon

I thought Portland was going to be like Seattle, only smaller. I was wrong. Portland is quirky, relaxed, ecologically conscious, and earnest. People are friendly but not overly so. Bike lanes abound and are used regularly and not as some kind of highway decoration. Cars stop for pedestrians -- that was a shock for me. I'm used to letting cars get their way, but in Portland, they have considerately waited for me while I considerately waited for them, until I figured out that they wouldn't drive until I walked across and our mutual consideration would create a traffic standstill. You see many Portlanders carrying their aluminum bottles filled with water or some other beverage. Portland has an Oldtown, a Chinatown, as well as other ethnic neighborhoods, and many computer venture capitalists that have escaped California.

So what did I do in Portland, well I only had 48 hours so I chose the things that Portland was famous for: gardens, beer, and chocolate. Well, Portland should be known for them. Portland has the finest Japanese Garden outside of Japan as well as the largest Chinese Classical Garden based on the gardens of Suzhou. In addition they have a beautiful terraced rose garden where over 400 different varieties of roses grow. After all that nature, you can imbibe a byproduct of nature. Beer. Portland has a lively microbrewery scene and you can visit many pubs that have their own brands and they are not all expensive. After a meal and some suds you should also check out several gourmet chocolate shops that can be found in this small city. I'll write individual reviews of the above but I would rather have you experience Portland, Oregon itself. There's more than enough to do in the city for a weekend, and even more to do if you take advantage of the recreations that can be found outside of Portland. So for those of you who haven't thought of Portland as a destination. Consider putting it on your list.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LeSportsac Travel Tote

I love LeSportsac. I like their colorful designs. I love how the material is so light and airy that it doesn't feel like you are carrying a big tote bag, yet these bags are so sturdy. They are perfect for travel as a second carry on bag to have with you in case your checked bag is overweight. When it's empty you can roll it up and stick it into a handbag but if you have a lot of things to carry it can expand and let you carry so much. And you don't have to worry about it bursting at the seams! Another plus is pockets. Pockets, pockets, pockets. You can never have enough when you travel and this tote has many. Also as a girlie girl it's great that it comes in all sorts of patterns and colors. They are eyecatching, convenient, fresh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Enjoy 2 days for the price of 1 at Universal Studios Hollywood!

I am a kid at heart and I still love going to theme parks as an adult without kids. And I know I'm not the only one. That's why I was excited to find out about the 2 days for the price of 1 deal at Universal Studios Hollywood and I'm passing it on to you. If you are going to or near Los Angeles you might want to take a break from all the stargazing and spend a couple of days being a kid at heart. Buy a 1 day ticket for $67.99 and get a second day free! This deal is for a limited time only and tickets must be bought online.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One-way flight from Cancun was only $89 on AirTran!

I saw that AirTran was having a sale and couldn't believe the prices from Cancun to my base airport. I fly on a space available basis because I work for an airline. It's never a problem trying to get to a destination, it's more of a problem trying to get back from a destination. So when I saw the fares, I had to take advantage. When you include all the charges and fees, the price increased to a little over $160. Also, I do have a layover at Atlanta but that's okay.

Of course as soon as the transaction was processed, I saw that American Airlines was also having a fare sale. Well you know what that means, as soon as 1 or 2 airlines start slashing fares there will be a fare war. That's all good for the passenger and it's good for the industry because it keeps us employed. Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hillary as a Jack O Lantern

Is it Halloween already? Please, someone in her staff discreetly tell her that wearing a day-glo orange pantsuit against a dark background does not project the authority that she wants to display as Secretary of State.
On the other hand it might scare the Russians to our point of view.

Review of

I mainly use Hotwire for their discount hotel services so that's what I am reviewing. has great rates in every city but you won't know what hotel it is until after you have paid. For example, let's say you want to stay at a hotel in San Francisco. Now San Francisco is a great travel destination and attract many visitors each year. To accommodate all the tourists, there are many hotels in all areas of San Francisco. So which one to pick?

Well, at you would type in the city, the dates that you will be checking in and checking out, the number of rooms, the number of adults and children checking in. Once you enter your information you will get a list of available hotels by star rating, price per night, hotel amenities and area in San Francisco. Now at this point you will still not get the name of the hotel, you will find that out after you have picked one and paid for it up front. That can be daunting for some people, however, only deals with well-known hotel chains and brands so that is a certainty that can help you feel comfortable in choosing one of the hotels on the listing.

Once you click on one of the hotels listed, you will get additional information. You will get the total price of your stay (including taxes and fees), the area that the hotel is located, the star rating of the hotel, check in/out dates, amenities, the hotel chains that qualify under the star rating and description of services that fit that star rating. Now that's a lot of information to comfortably choose a hotel. For example, a stay in San Francisco from July 31 - August 9 this year I am choosing a hotel that is rated 3 stars, is in the Fisherman's Wharf area, that has a fitness center, swimming pool, in-house restaurant, business center, laundry facilities, and high speed internet access for $143 per night. The 3-star rating means that the hotel chains that qualify are Holiday Inn, Radisson, DoubleTree, etc. With all that information, I feel very comfortable in choosing that hotel. And I've rarely been disappointed.

Actually, I experience a thrill once I click on my choice and paid for it and found out that I will be staying at a 4-star Hyatt for less than half the rack rate. The one time that it had disappointed me was when I chose to stay in small city. In a small city, there are much fewer hotels, so you can't actually pinpoint your area as narrowly and what I ended up with was a hotel that was not near the city center and I had to use a cab to get to it from the rail station. However, it was a short cab ride and the star rating of the hotel stayed true.

Depending on the season, the rates that you get through Hotwire can be unbelievable. Off peak, I have stayed in 4-star hotels for under $75. Hotwire has been a wonderful and reliable service and would recommend it highly.

Customer care: 1-866-HOTWIRE

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't forget to use deodorant!

With the weak economy and fewer business travel warriors roaming the skies, the airlines have been forced to reduce capacity either by reducing the number of flights and/or downsizing the planes. What this means is that there are fewer empty seats on each flight and more passengers are being forced to get cozy with each other. It is more important than ever to be thoughtful of your fellow passenger by observing the rules of good hygiene.

1. Eliminate as much body odor as possible. This can really be done effectively by taking showers regularly and using deodorant. Now there are some individuals who feel that a body's natural aroma should not be denied; you must be European, feel free to use European airlines such as Lufthansa or British Airways and so forth. However if you are flying on an American airline, you should follow American hygiene practices. Your American seatmates will thank you for it. Otherwise, trade seats with an American who is sitting with a European and everybody will be happier.
2. If you use perfume, cologne, after shave, eau de toilette etc. use a scent that is not overpowering and use it sparingly. Less is more in this case.
3. Control your halitosis (aka bad breath). Always have a supply of minty tasting gum or breath mints.
4. Watch what you eat before your flight; try not to have anything garlicky or any strong smelling spice. I myself love garlic. Life without garlic is a life without flavor, but I don't want people to know what I had for lunch and I'm not interested in what other people had for lunch either.
5. Before your flight, don't eat anything that will cause you gas. You'll have to expel it either through the front door or the back door, either way, it is rude. It's always a good idea to have tissues with you to discreetly burp. If you feel a fart coming, please hold it until you get to the bathroom.

Of course the above is just a starting point. Anything you want to add I'll consider to the above list.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Your favorite CSA

I was surfing Youtube and happened to see this MAD TV spoof of a United CSA. With all the cutbacks I hope it doesn't come to this!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Airline layoffs mean more waiting for you

Continental lays off 3000 workers! United cuts 1400 from its payroll! US Airways lays off 600. American Airlines reduces workforce by 1600!

It's a trying time to be a customer service agent but it will be even more trying for you the passenger. If you're the type of passenger who thinks CSAs are equivalent to the gatekeeper from hell, you're probably happy that there will be less of us to hassle you and you can always use the kiosk to check-in. However, you're checking in and the kiosk says "Unable to process, please see an Agent" Then what? Yes, you can call your travel agent, but what if the office is closed when the problem occurs. Or what if you bought your ticket from Orbitz or Cheaptickets or Travelocity? You will have to go to the dreaded "Full Service Line" and the line is meandering around the terminal...and you have to start boarding in 15 minutes.

Yes, things do go wrong and it's that time that you realize how much the airline industry has downsized when there's only one of us and 500 of you waiting on line.

Please realize when you're on that line that we will do the best we can to fix your ticket. When you're in line and in a panic because you don't want to miss your flight and the agent is just talking on the phone while a passenger is standing in front of her, we're not calling our mother-- we're calling our support desk. We can only service one passenger at a time and some problems take longer than others. It's not that we don't care but we do feel the huge anxiety emanating from all of you but we can only help one passenger at a time.

So what can you do. Here are some tips:

1. Check-in online at the airline website. Things usually go well and most likely you just have to go to the gate when you arrive at the airport (unless you have to check-in a bag). If it does not go well online, then call the 800 number for customer service of your airline to see if you can clear it up before you go to the airport. Please don't forget to print your boarding pass.
2. When you come to the airport know at least three things: your full name as stated on your ticket, your connection city or destination, and what time you are supposed to leave. You would be surprised at how many idiots (I'm sorry but I have to think that) who come up to me to check in and don't know where they are going or what time. People, there are many flights at different times to different cities, we need all three above information to locate your ticket. If you have a 6-digit confirmation number or locator number or itinerary number, it makes things that much easier for us.
3. Bring the credit card that you used to buy the ticket, sometimes we can use that to locate your itinerary.
4. If you do have a problem with your ticket, get to the airport early so that you have extra time to wait for a CSA and extra time for the CSA to resolve your issue and still make your flight.
5. Bring the customer service number of your ticketing service, you might need it. Then while you are waiting in line you can give Expedia or Priceline a call to see if they can resolve your issue.
6. If you found out at the airport that you have a problem when you tried to check in at the kiosk and you only have 15 minutes until you board your flight, then consider the possibility that you might not make it to the flight and try to be flexible and open to the options to resolve your problem.
7. Have patience and bring some bottled water and some snacks to tide you over while you are waiting. We really do appreciate your patience and we will give you as much time as needed to solve your issue.
8. Problems are usually a technical issue so don't get mad at us, we're trying to help you get to where you want to go and we will do what we can to help you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Travel light and cheap

Leisure travelers pack way too much and inevitably they run across the excess baggage fees. Then they look at me and get mad and ask..."When did you start charging for baggage?"..."How much?!"..."That's ridiculous! I paid so much for this ticket!"...then you take your huge bags off the scale and start taking pieces out to keep the bag under 50 pounds and muttering under your breath. Understand, that it is not my fault, I'm following our baggage policy, be glad that I gave you a chance to take the stuff out so that you don't have to pay the overweight baggage fee.

You only travel once a year, but seriously, if you are traveling for a week or two weeks you don't need to pack your entire wardrobe. There are things called laundromats and hotels do have laundry services. The rest of your wardrobe is probably wishfully thinking about an experience that you hope will happen. You're thinking you'll meet Handsome Rich Dude or Cute Rich Girl who'll grab you by the hand and bring you to his/her yacht/mansion with pool/beachside house and dance until dawn at a hip club and you'll want to impress with your CLOTHES(?).

Now I hate to tell you this but the chances of meeting Handsome Rich Dude or Cute Rich Girl in coach is somewhat nil. They'll be hanging out at the First Class Lounge. And no they won't let you in exchange for some frequent flyer miles.

Or perhaps you are packing for any kind of emergency or situation. Let's say you're headed to Cancun but you're afraid that your plane might have to crash land in the Yucatan jungle. In that case you definitely want to make sure that you're not without the safari suit you bought from Banana Republic. Well, chances are if you do crash land in the Yucatan, everybody's suitcases are going to be flung every which way and your chances of finding your own suitcase is the same as...crash landing in the Yucatan. Besides, knowing Banana Republic they probably do have a store in the jungles of the Yucatan and you can buy there.

Checking-in luggage of unusual size can create a hassle for you and might delay your flight or even cause a change in your travel itinerary. This usually happens when passengers check in with things like cross-country skis or pole vaults. Checking in with something too big or too long may mean that you can't get it on the plane because the baggage bins are too small and may cause you to be rerouted and go through a connection because the checked-in item needs to be stowed on a bigger airplane.

Also, don't pack anything fragile in your suitcase. The underbelly of a plane is like a football field. Taking off and landing, and any turbulence during a flight makes the baggage area inside a plane similar to an electric mixer. The fine wine that you packed with your clothes will only be enjoyed by sucking it through your shirt.

The other thing that I see when I check people in for their flight is that their carry-on bag is heavy. Try to keep the weight of your carry-on bag manageable. You might hurt yourself or the passenger sitting underneath when you lift your bag and can't quite reach the overhead bin. Now you might be thinking to yourself that the flight attendant should do this and they could; but don't forget that the flight attendant is there for safety reasons and is not supposed to be your porter, in addition the flight attendant will not want to take the risk of hurting him/herself and go on disability because you packed a very heavy bag. Most airlines have a maximum weight of 40 pounds for carry-on and believe me, that's heavy.

In all seriousness, it would probably be easier for your to pack less and choose your travel clothes wisely. But here are some tips for you so that checking in and air travel will be a much smoother process.

1. Pack light. If you check in more than two bags, the excess bag charges will be very costly.
2. It costs less to check in two bags each under 50 pounds than one overweight bag. Be sure to carry an extra duffel bag or large tote bag so that you have something to put your excess clothes in.
3. Keep your carry-on bag light so that you don't strain anything when you lift the bag on or off the overhead bin. If it's over 20 pounds put it in under the seat in front of you.
4. If you bought a lot of stuff during your vacation, check and see if it's cheaper to send your clothes home and pack your new stuff instead of paying the excess baggage fee. If you are traveling with more than one person coordinate so that each traveler is using their baggage allowance effectively.
5. Don't check in an expensive or fragile item as baggage. You run the very real risk of having it broken or the baggage lost and the compensation that you are entitled to might not be as much as the value of the item.
6. Don't check in something that is irreplaceable because you run the risk of losing the bag. If you were shopping and found the perfect wedding dress for your wedding, don't pack it in your check-in bag, pack it with your carry-on. It saves a lot of heartache.
7. The day before you leave, check your airline website and check whether the stuff you are checking in is allowed on your plane.
8. Your carry-on bag shouldn't be too big, again check with your airline website to make sure that your carry-on bag dimensions are allowed as carry-on.
9. Pack your liquids over 3 ounces with your check-in bags.
10. Prepay your bag on your airline website it might be cheaper.