Monthly Archives: August 2013

This Travel Blog Has It

A struggling former mill town in my vicinity recently adopted the slogan “It’s Happening Here,” a statement that is open to a dangerously wide range of interpretations. What is happening here? Muggings would be bad. Impromptu free concerts at the town gazebo by the Rolling Stones would be very good.

Despite the fact that I’m sort of a propagandist by trade, I’ve never understood these municipal marketing and tourism slogans, the kind dreamed up by a consultant, approved by the city council and emblazoned on tourism websites and economic development brochures. Never once in my vacationing history have I visited a place because of its slogan. It has never been even a contributing factor.

For example, I visited San Antonio not for its slogan, which is “Deep. In the Heart,” but for Riverwalk. And mariachi. I love mariachi. I get the “deep in the heart of Texas” reference but I’m still not sure what that slogan means. The way it’s punctuated makes me think it’s an excerpt from a particularly terse autopsy report.

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Attack of the Big Screens

My husband and I ate breakfast in a Tampa hotel restaurant recently surrounded by six big-screen TVs.

They were affixed high on the walls, tuned to various stations, the sound turned off, some with captions, some without. And while the sheer number of screens was unusual, the experience of visual cacophony was not. It seems that everywhere we go these days there is at least one big-screen TV, usually more, flickering and dancing away.

This is especially true when we travel out of state. At home we can find places where there are no TVs – our favorite restaurant has none – or where they are at least confined to the bar.

But the invasion of big screens in airports, casual restaurants, hotel lobbies and even cruise ships has made it difficult to get away from them when traveling. And getting away from them has become increasingly important to both of us even as it has become more challenging.

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Cruise Passenger Bill of Putative Rights

The International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights may be worth more than the Web page it’s posted on, but only if there’s going to be some kind of enforcement mechanism. And there’s no sign of that.

Please excuse my skepticism but when a segment of the travel industry repeatedly mistreats its customers and then, under threat of outside regulation (see the Cruise Passenger Protection Act), adopts a voluntary and self-enforced code of conduct, well I get this deja vu feeling all over again.
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California Yurt Alert

Poppy Yurt

My daughter and I were looking for a relaxing, waterfront retreat for a few days when I’m out visiting her in Santa Barbara, CA. Look what we found.

We just reserved a yurt at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, a park owned by the County of Santa Barbara. The cost is $60 a night, plus a $20 non-refundable reservation fee.

I don’t think this qualifies as “glamping” (is that an annoying word, or what?) because the bathrooms are a bit of a walk and the accommodations are pretty basic. But you have to love the view.¬†I grew up on tent camping vacations and it looks comfortable enough to me.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Travel Light, Board Early

I flew American recently and was permitted to board earlier than my assigned zone because I had only a small carry-on that fit under the seat. I really liked that.

A recent Associated Press article describes the logic behind the new AA policy and explains other strategies that other airlines are testing as a means to speed up the boarding process.

The article doesn’t mention it, so please allow me to point out that the boarding process slowed down substantially when the airlines* imposed checked bag fees. Passengers now feel impelled to overstuff their carry-on bags, which then can’t be wedged into the overhead bins without a crowbar and a barrel of grease, which means the line backs up down the jetway while the passenger flails away at the American Tourister until a flight attendant confiscates it and gate checks it.

And I can’t blame the offending passenger because I’ll do the same to save $25, if I have to. And there’s actually no point to pointing that out because those fees will never, ever go away. But I feel a little better for reminding everyone of whose fault this is.

*Except Southwest and JetBlue.