Have you ever wondered why and how a natural disaster in one part of the country effects your air travel?
Photo by Andrew Branch on Unsplash
Well, let me see if I can explain it a bit. Since I am in Texas and it has just happened let’s use Hurricane Harvey and United Airlines, as an example.
You are in California but Harvey hit Texas so it shouldn’t interfere with your international flights, right? Wrong! You are flying on United which code shares with Lufthansa and you want to go to Germany, well; United’s home-base (main HUB) is in Houston, which means many of the pilots and flight crew are based in Houston. If they were home when the flooding started they probably cannot get out to work their flights, since Houston’s airport is closed. If they were out on a flight when the flooding happened they probably couldn’t get home. The FAA heavily regulates and guards these regulations (for your protection and the crew’s) the number of hours that pilots and flight crew can work, every hour, every week and every month is laid out and observed. So, there may be flight crew members and pilots who are elsewhere in the country but they will not be able to pick-up hours for the Houston based teams. And if there are some who were on vacation so they do have hours that they can fly and if they decide to give up the vacation, issues arise like; a pilot of a 777 cannot just hop into a 737; again rules, training and requirements are different for each piece of equipment.
Speaking of equipment – what about the planes that were damaged in Houston? A plane is not like a car, you cannot just go to the dealership and pick up 12 new ones. It takes about 2 years from order to delivery to recieve a new airliner. So, there are going to be fewer planes to put passengers on.
What? You aren’t flying on United so you won’t have any problems? Think again. An airline has an obligation to get passengers to their destinations……so United will be working with other airlines to do just that. Flights will be fuller, if this is even possible since they all seem to be flying full nowadays, anyway.
All of this to say, if you are flying in the next 2 weeks or so, expect delays. When you get to the airport thank the airline employees for all that they are doing as they are fighting the good fight. Believe me they do not want you stuck at the airport, either. They want you on your way and happy because that is a lot easier for them.
I am certainly glad I am not a scheduler, right now. Phew.
Photo by Wang Xi on Unsplash
We Americans are used to renting a car on vacation. Why not? We fly to Vegas, Hawaii or Florida, pick up our rented Mustang Convertible or Minivan at the airport and enjoy being able to go everywhere we want. The cars and the roads are the same, the laws and driving customs are similar, and, of course, in the good ole USA, it’s about the only way to get from point A to point B. We might even rent a European car, like a BMW or Mercedes, so renting in Europe should be about the same, right? Not exactly. The cars are different, the customs are different and the costs may be a lot different than at home.
Let's start with the Cars:
Manual or Automatic?
Unless you’re renting some exotic supercar here in the USA, you’re going to get an automatic transmission. Many people under 50 have never even been in a standard car, let alone know how to drive one. Manual transmissions are alive and well in Europe.
Smaller, lighter and more economical cars are the norm in Europe. Have you ever seen a VW Polo, or a Mercedes A series? These cars will make your small SUV look absolutely huge. To be more economical (remember, gas costs about $5 a gallon or more) they have smaller (or maybe diesel) engines and manual transmissions.
Now, consider the size car you want. We Americans tend to overpack. Will two adults and four suitcases fit into the econobox offered? Remember, we’re not taking that 10+ hour flight to go for a long weekend, or, if there’s a cruise involved, that adds another layer of clothing and accessories necessary. You don’t want to travel every day with a suitcase on your lap.
Petrol or Benzin?
More about diesel…. Diesel is not popular in the US for a variety of reasons, but is very popular in Europe because Deisel vehicles tend to be more economical to operate. Nowadays, they don’t belch smoke, or smell bad like they used to, but if the smell of diesel fuel makes you gag when filling up, this could be an issue. Also, you may have to be careful when fueling since a tank of gasoline will ruin a diesel car (and vice versa), so you MUST know whether your car takes Petrol or Benzin (gasoline or Diesel).
Then there are the Costs and Space to consider:
It’s more than just the rental fee. Everything costs more in Europe. Fuel costs $5 to $7 a gallon (and it’s measured in liters, just to fool you). Let’s see, 3 ¾ liters in a gallon at 1.50 Euros a liter when a Euro is $1.20…take my word for it, it’s expensive. Then, there’s parking. Nearly every place in the USA is surrounded by acres of free parking. Check in to the Hilton, or the Courtyard, or the Holiday Inn, and parking is free (unless you’re in NY or San Francisco or LA, or other large cities. If you’re used to those parking prices, you will be comfortable in Europe). Few hotels have parking facilities, and if they do they can cost upwards of $30 a night. The spaces may be so small that your passengers need to get out of the car before you park; since they won’t be able to open the doors afterward (I’ve seen it, believe me) Would you be able to drive your rental into a very narrow car elevator to get to the underground parking? The Autobahn in Germany is free, but many of the highways in other countries are not. However, they do not always have toll booths, you must have a tag in the window. You can purchase one at the rental car agency or they’ll advise you how and where to get one.
What about Customs, Laws, and other Differences?
In the good ole USA driving laws and customs are mostly the same state to state. Not so in Europe. The British drive on the other side of the road, Italians consider lanes and signs more suggestions than laws, if the Germans are flashing their lights while coming up behind you, it just means their high performance Beemer is going a lot faster than your rented Skoda wagon, and you should get over to the right (NOW), and so on.
Always do extensive research on the area where you’re going. Remember, you probably won’t be able to read the street signs so learn a few in the local language before you go. You CAN get a speeding ticket from a camera, and there’s not a phone book full of lawyers offering to get you off for a fee. The rental agency will just add it to your bill, and it could be significant with a surcharge.
Have a beer, then drive to the next destination? After all, in Europe, beer is cheaper than water, but it could be more expensive in the long run. The laws (and the beer) are both stronger in Europe.
Be sure to check with your home car insurance carrier. You may not have any coverage in another country. Also, travel insurance may cover you but probably not if you bought it from the airline or cruise line, and, of course, you can buy the insurance from the rental agency.
Alternatives to renting a car?
Unlike the USA, most countries in Europe have an extensive network of comfortable, reliable public transportation. You can get to all but the most obscure locations using this service. You may have to take a train and a bus…and maybe even walk a little bit, but you can still get there. Also, if you get close to your destination at a train station, there’s always a taxi waiting to help you finish your journey.
The other benefit is you don’t have to “watch the road” and think about the driving laws, just sit back, have a beer and watch the scenery go by. Thinking about going 100MPH on the Autobahn, how about nearly 200 MPH on the train?
I learned to drive in Germany and got my driver's license there but I’d rather take the train (or other public transportation). It’s more economical. It’s comfortable, convenient and I’ve never been stuck in a traffic jam or construction zone (that I was aware of) on the train.
I can have a meal or a snack, watch the sights go by, and get nearly everywhere easily.
If you are a person that just needs the independence of driving a car, enjoy, just do your research first.
So, you have just gotten out of the shower and have a towel wrapped around you,
you look out the balcony doors and see a pod of dolphin jumping in and out of the water below. You quickly think to yourself, “these are private balconies, the dividers are frosted and the room is behind me so no problem if I grab my camera and run out on the balcony holding the towel up to my front, I’ll be covered in case another ship comes by”.
So, you do; because you forgot that you are in the cabin below all of the cabins above you.
Now there is clamoring from above, gasps, giggles and downright laughter. You think to yourself, “aw, everyone is enjoying the dolphins as much as I am” until you turn
around to head inside the room and notice movement overhead.
Binoculars and cameras are now pointed your way and not at the ocean.
Red-faced you run into your cabin and have learned that not all balconies are private.
That scenario was a little extreme however while on our last group cruise in Alaska
one of my clients did find himself distracted from the glaciers by a passenger in
black undies and a towel.
Always, always, always be aware of your surroundings and wear a robe!
There are some panorama balconies where the deck above you sticks out almost as far as your railing and you might be okay but I say “better safe, than sorry”.
Ah, the excitement that stems from planning your first Alaskan cruise.....
Where to start?: (Cruise vs land or both)
Do I just take a cruise or do I want to spend some time doing a tour?
Great news you can do either one!
However, if you want to have more opportunity to see the wildlife and explore the landscape; I highly recommend that you incorporate a land portion into your cruise.
You could do as I and go into Anchorage 3 days before the rest of my group
gets there in order to explore the countryside more.
Then a few more of the group will be joining me and
Princess Cruise lines for their 5 night land excursion.
Which includes 1 night in Anchorage, 2 nights at the Denali Lodge and 2 nights at
the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge,
day trips and an amazing transfer to catch our ship in Whittier via rail in a dome car.
This is where the rest of the group will join us for the cruise to Vancouver.
The next big decision: (Tour options)
What do I do once I get there? Is there anything to see?
Do you want to catch your own salmon it,
have someone smoke, package it up and send it home for you? Do it! Have you always dreamed of being pulled by a dog team through the snow?
Do you want to see Eagle’s in their natural habitat? Or black bear?
What about visiting a wildlife conservation center where you might be able to feed a moose calf by bottle?
(possibly, I always hope there aren’t any orphans; I’d rather have them safe and sound in the wild)
Is being piloted in a float plane or helicopter over Alaska or her glaciers on your bucket list?
As you can see there are so many options and these ideas are only the tip of the glacier (yes, I am taking artistic liberties with the quote)
Contact me to help you make the most of your Alaskan dream vacation.
Turning Passion into Profit
Submitted by JudyRomano on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 8:14 AM
Turning Passion into Profit
Micky Dixon is a self-described nomad, a well-traveled wanderer, so it’s not clear whether she blames or credits technology with her small business success.
Since that trip, she’s studied her way to official certifications in both the travel and cruise industries. She’s acted as a tour guide, travel planner and consultant for hundreds of customers.
At first it was a bit of a struggle, but word of mouth and her success with self-marketing is being recognized. This summer, Micky was asked to speak at the Home-based Travel Agent Forum. Her success is being held up as an example of what to do to others in the industry.
Success in the travel and tourism industry isn’t easy. The popularity of online sites that offer travelers the ability to find and book their own vacation plans caused a lot of travel agents to turn to other careers.
Businesses closed down, the personal touch and experience of professionals fell by the wayside. Micky says she’s seeing a turn back to the way it used to be. She says people are looking for insight into places that travel agents offer because they make it their business to know the ins and outs of locations.
Because Micky spent 18 of her first 20 years of life in Europe as the daughter of an Army soldier father and a German mother, she has a unique perspective on what to see and what to avoid on the continent.
It’s that insight that has her customers coming back for more.
She asks her clients very specific questions about what they want to see and do, then puts together personalized itineraries for them.
She explains, “I don’t use tour operators. I plan day-by-day. What do you want to see? Where do you want to go? I want the trip to be about YOU … not what a tour operator wants you to see.”
Micky continues to find new and exciting places to visit and send clients. While she specializes in Europe, she offers itineraries all over the world and cruises, too.
She says everyday is an adventure when adventure is your business.
GSA believes in the value of small businesses. We share this story as an inspiration to others and encourage entrepreneurship nationwide.
OSBU Social Media Manager
1800 F St. NW
In the spring of 1982 I came home from Youth group
and told my parents that if I put in 60 hours of work it would only cost $200.00 for me to go to Israel that summer.
I was 15 and determined to be baptized in the Jordan River.
(As one who hadn’t ever been baptized why wouldn’t I strive to be baptized in “The” river?)
I was told that they would need some time to talk about it. A few days later my mother told me that with everything going on over there ("scary stuff") the answer was originally going to be “No” however one doesn’t know what will happen in life from minute to minute, I could step in the street and get hit by a bus; so the answer was now “Yes”.
I was the first person in the group to put in my 60 hours of volunteer work plus I babysat in order to earn the $200.00 so my parents would not have to put anything toward the trip. (My parents still gave me the $200.00 for spending money)
Sure our cars were being inspected with mirrors and by hand upon entering the military bases, the IRA was running rampant, the Falkland’s War was happening, Israelis were fighting with the Lebanese and Palestinians but why should my parents be concerned for my safety? They were but they also wanted to be sure that I could experience all that life had to offer me. (Plus, they probably did not want to have to deal with an upset teenager once the group had returned and nothing had befallen them.)
To this day, I believe that we all die on time. If it is my time then death will find me, whether I am lying in my bed or in a mall or on an airplane or in Paris or Brussels.
"I do not fear death, I fear living life like I am dying." ~MD
Do you have a passion for travel? Our San Antonio Chapter Director, Micky Dixon, lives and breathes travel every day.
“I was a military brat,” Dixon said. Her family lived in Europe for 20 years and it sparked an early interest in travel.
When she first decided to join the industry, she started with a local host agency and soon realized that she wanted more. Dixon attended a trade show where she saw a woman wearing an OSSN badge. She asked what that was and a whole new door opened for her - Dixon found the education and support she needed, as well as the TRUE code that allowed her to be independent.
“Do what feels right to you,” Dixon said. “Host agencies are great, but if you want the meat and potatoes, you need to do more.”
She knew that her specialization was going to be European and river cruising travel. Starting with training and education, she began the foundation for her business.
Dixon couldn’t say enough about how important the networking and support is of the membership, but TRUE made her blossom. It allowed her to be her own boss, be taken seriously by suppliers, and receive full commission.
“An agent needs to make use of their membership and chapter meetings,” Dixon said. “Webinars are always great, but there is no interaction. You need to interact with other members because old agents still need the new agents. We should always be learning from one another. Nothing beats networking.”
Since joining CCRA and then becoming a chapter director in 2013, Dixon has been a rockstar. Her attitude, personality and energetic spirit is seen by everyone she comes across.
We love her and are lucky to have her apart of our association.
A HUGE WEEK AT THE TRAVEL AGENT FORUM IN LAS VEGAS
Today we wrapped a very exciting week as the show sponsor of the Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas! We met hundreds of agents during the forum, and we welcomed many new agents into the CCRA family.
The week kicked off with a two part session on how to build a successful agency. Maggie Fischer, our Vice President of Marketing & Events, had a room packed of travel agents, who wanted to hear what our experienced panel had to say about branding your agency and using social media effectively to run a successful home based travel agency.
That night, the CCRA FirstNight event was on the High Roller. There were over 300 agents who came to our event to network with our suppliers. It was a night full of VIP’s, and we couldn’t have asked for a better event to start the week.
Monday was a day dedicated to education. CCRA’s Margie Jordan held workshops that helped agents see the value in and how to use social media. Travel agents learned how to use blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in a more beneficial way.
Tuesday morning started with the General Session where we awarded two fantastic directors for their hard work: Hema Khan, our Northeast Regional Director and Southern New Jersey Chapter Director, and Micky Dixon, San Antonio, Texas Chapter Director. We wouldn't be where we are today with membership if it wasn't for our directors.
That afternoon and Wednesday morning were exhibit days. Everyone was so excited to hit the trade show floor, and we were thrilled to open the CCRA Platinum Partner Pavilion. We welcomed 12 suppliers into the pavilion, and welcomed hundreds of agents. It was a great day watching our suppliers and travel agents connect. Many used our Supplier Lounge, where they could sit down together and talk about travel. It was great to see so many new agent faces, and we are excited to welcome the many, many new CCRA agent members that joined us this week.
We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. And we would like to especially thank the team at the Travel Show Marketing Group – Jim Cloonan, Eric Cooper, Scott Comacho, John Pontius, Lisa Marshall, and the rest of the TSMG team. We could not have had the success we did this week at their forum without all of their hard work.
A Special Thank You to Our Directors!
We had a great turnout of directors that attended the Travel Agent Forum and our lunch on Monday, March 21. We couldn't do this without you all.
This little square has brought me great comfort over the past 3 days.
She has entertained me with her pedestrians; both tourists and locals.
She has lifted my spirits with her street musicians; I have listened to a cellist, an accordion player; a sax player and tonight a little trio. Some of these played different songs at the same time that blended so beautifully. This afternoon someone played a song that I did not know but the crowd did as they all sang together harmoniously.
She has literally fed me from 3 different shops.
She provided me with beauty as I have watched some of her trees put on leaves as others are just starting to expose their shoots and as I watched the sun fade over her glorious buildings.
She provided a safe spot for my hubby to catch a cab to go get my medicine this morning.
Yet, she has also taunted me as mere steps from her is the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, where some of Brussels' best chocolate can be found (if you are able to zoom into the picture - near the top left are 3 grey columns leading into it's glass domed walk way), also the Grand Place is just a block over to the left of the picture and the giant chocolate elephant that I had come back to take a 2nd go at ingesting (private joke) is just to the right of this picture.
Have no fear little square, I will be back to visit with you again!