The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Friday, July 27, 2007

Live travel agent versus on line web booking machines

I have been invited to a conference in Las Vegas so I decided to do a little shopping around for an air and hotel package. Come on everyone checks around for the best travel deal! This time I am going to conduct a test- man, actually a female travel agent versus machines or the on-line travel agencies.

To be fair to all the contestants as a price shopper you should always compare apples to apples. So I will be looking at the same airline, travel dates, arrival and departure times, ground services, hotel accommodations and number of travelers. The particulars for this trip are day time roundtrip nonstop flights for 2 people, not senior citizens, from Columbus OH to Las Vegas NV, travel dates Dec 3rd 2007 to Dec 7th, 2007, roundtrip airport to hotel transportation, 4 nights at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino along with all taxes and fees.

My first visit was to a local on-line web based travel agency recently featured in the Herald Dispatch. Their attractive user friendly web site allowed me to price my trip and initially offered a $360.08 deal. However closer inspection revealed that the flights changed in Milwaukee WI in both directions. Changing to my non stop preference the package price increased to $462.28.

Next step was to price the identical vacation package on The results were almost the same as my 1st search with less than a $5.00 difference per person. Again the connecting flights option was the initial displayed lowest price. Had I selected this option on price alone and not looked closely at the flight schedule I would have purchased a non refundable package that did not really meet my travel needs. When prompted for the nonstop flights the Travelocity package increased to $460.00 a person.

Step 3 was to have my favorite travel agent shop for me. She accessed an “agent” only booking engine and offered me what I really wanted. A 9:00am departure from Columbus with an 11:30am return from Vegas, both nonstop flights. The airline ticket, roundtrip airport to hotel transfers, lodging and all taxes came to $ 352.30 per person.

“Check one more thing for me. What’s the cost of just the airline ticket alone” I asked. She replied that it was $338.30. So for only $14.00 more per person I could get 4 nights lodging and transfers. Guess what my response to the travel gal was? Book it!

Please note that these prices are subject to change and about one hundred thousand other variables may apply that could impact your trip cost so to guarantee this package I had to reserve it immediately and place a deposit on it. There was also plenty of fine print about payment schedule, change or cancel fees and so forth and my agent took the time to explain the package terms and conditions and to make sure that I understood them. In this regards to this items the on-line sites only presented me with the option to click in a box that I understood the terms and conditions of the transaction.

My scorecard reads 1 sale for the “live” travel agent and on-line sites zero. Teaching point here is to compare like products, analyze the data and carefully read the offers before purchasing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nickel & dimed @ Alamo Rental Car

I thought I'd seen it all when it came to add on fees and service charges but Alamo Rental Car wins one for their creativity. On a rental in Orlando they tacked on .05 cents a day, yes a nickel a day for tire & battery usage!

Pretty soon they're going to charge travelers for the air in the tires. Or maybe we'll have to pay extra to turn on the radio, run the air conditioner or heater.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flying on Skybus

I've received some positive reports on Skybus Airline. They are the new budget start up airline offering flights from Columbus, OH.

Most passengers were pleasantly surprised & pleased with the check in experience and the flights.

Biggest complaint was slow food & beverage service aboard the planes. Skybus does not permit you to bring your own snacks & drinks on board so you have to wait and buy it from them. I feel that this is carrying it a little too far and maybe in the near future this policy will be changed.

You pay for everything-checked bags, priority boarding, etc. But with fares as low as $10.00 each way shelling out another $10.00 or so for a golf bag doesn't seem bad.

For flight information & reservations contact Skybus online at

Friday, July 20, 2007

ABQ or the city of the Duke

The AAA baseball All Star game, affordable high desert golf, fabulous “New Mexican” dining, enchanting Native American culture and the authentic flavor of the old Southwest. These were some of the mains reasons that I selected the city of Duke better known as Albuquerque New Mexico for a summer getaway.

Although Duke City, as the locals call it, is not on main stream tourism highway it’s a location well worth the visit. However Albuquerque does occupy a famous stretch of road, old Route 66.

A slice of Americana can be discovered driving on Route 66 or Central Avenue, as is wanders through the outskirts and business district of the city. Roadside motor courts, classic diners and boutique shopping opportunities await the travelers. If you are traveling through by car hop off the interstate highway system and enjoy a slice of old time America.

For real “New Mexican” food and some great people watching stop at the Frontier, 2400 Central Avenue NE. It’s located across from the University of Mexico’s bookstore and is a campus favorite serving up huge tasty helpings. Stop at the Casa Grande, 2424 Central Avenue SW and get served a family sized platter of authentic “New Mexican” chow. This place is located directly across from the aquarium and botanic gardens so it offered a pleasant diversion from their snack bars.

Enjoy a mountain vacation experience in the nearby Sandia Peaks. Sandia means "watermelon" in Spanish and when you see the setting sun splash pink light over the rocky 10,600-foot peaks of the Sandia Mountains, you'll know exactly how they earned the name. To get a closer view of these spectacular peaks, ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway--the worlds longest--to the crest, where you can look out over 11,000 square miles of magical New Mexico landscape. To the west, the majestic Rio Grande meanders through a cottonwood-lined valley and dormant volcanoes are silhouetted against the brilliant sunset. As darkness blankets the city, thousands of lights below twinkle like diamonds, matching the stars scattered across the enormous sky. A meal at the summit in the “High Finance” restaurant caps off this experience with fine dining and spectacular views. For winter sport enthusiasts this is also the lift to some good downhill skiing too!

Venturing west on Central Avenue into the city’s western portion of the city you will find Old Town and the museum district.

Old Town is where the city was founded by the Spanish explorers and monks in 1706. Today it a cultural center, a charming 6 or 7 block area of historic adobe buildings, cafes, galleries, shops and 7 museums. The museums are the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, National Atomic Museum, Explora, American International Rattlesnake Museum, Turquoise Museum and the Lodestar Astronomy Center.

Another great attraction is San Felipe de Neri church which was completed in 1793. Today, this adobe church with walls five feet thick is the oldest in Albuquerque and its white towers mark Old Town from a distance. It remains a functioning Catholic church, and as you wander around the neighborhood you may see couples posing for wedding pictures in the Plaza's gazebo. For a real taste of the desert experience don’t miss the Rattle Snake Museum.
For a mid morning treat or an afternoon snack in Old Town stop for coffee and freshly baked homemade pastries at Café Au Lait, 328 San Felipe St NW.

Back out on Route 66 and still heading west you will find the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Albuquerque Aquarium and the Rio Grande Zoo. The botanic garden has some magnificent desert gardens and landscapes along with other themed areas to enjoy. You can park you automobile here and climb aboard the tram the runs between the aquarium and zoo.

I have only scratched the surface here, there is still plenty to see and do in this interesting locale. For more information on Albuquerque contact the tourism office toll free at 1.800.284.2282 or visit
Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau &

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Puffed @ ABQ

Yes puffed! Departing from Albuquerque International airport I encountered TSA’s new state of the art screening equipment.

The US government is installing "puffer" machines, for detecting explosives residue at most of the major airports across the country.

The machines, which detect traces of explosives when people walk through a portal at the checkpoint, can be used instead of pat-down checks to make sure that passengers are not carrying hidden bombs.

The experience was non invasive and I hardly noticed it.

One more interesting travel tale.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Out traveling of New Mexico

I'm off to New Mexico for some golf, sightseeing, good New Mexican food and the AAA baseball All Star game. Not really sure of my conection to the net it may be a while before I post again.

More on Baltimore

Here's some more about Baltimore, MD.

A great way to get to fort is via the local water taxi ( The Water Taxi System can be compared to a bus line on the water with continual service from all landings at time intervals of 15 to 20 minutes, in season (April through October). The boats do run through the winter, weather permitting, but with fewer boats. All boats are covered so a little rain doesn't bother us. Because they operate several different routes, passengers will make transfers throughout the day. It's necessary for you to ask questions of your Mates and Captains upon boarding in order to make sure you're on the right route for your destination.

At $8.00 per adult and $4.00 per child under 10 the all day ride pass is a steal and takes you into the heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Little Italy, Fells Point and beyond.

Food, pubs, live music, antiques, collectibles, one-of-a-kind shops, history and theaters are found at the trendy Fells Point landing area. This was Baltimore’s original deep-water seaport and amid the restored 18th and 19th century row homes, you sense the spirit of seamen long departed and hears the echoes of immigrants who arrived here seeking freedom and fortune.

Hopping off at the Harborplace landing you will discover the fully restored sloop-of-war, USS Constellation , Harborplace and Oriole Park There is a visitors center here and it is a perfect place to get information, recommendations, tickets, reservations and guidance.

The Harborplace pavilions offer a broad range of eating and shopping delights. Visit Phillips Seafood Restaurant and enjoy an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet or sample a local delicacy crab cakes.

Walk the three beautiful blocks west to Oriole Park and Sports Legends at Camden Yards. In this refurbished and restored Camden train station see the heroes and relive the gallant moments of great athletes. Babe Ruth’s boyhood home is just around the corner too!

The Little Italy water taxi stop transports you to a neighborhood that is home to generations of Italian-Americans who still sit on their “stoops,” play Bocce ball and greet you as you pass by. Eat more Baltimore and try a taste of “La Dolce Vita”, while exploring these tiny streets (Use Landing 5 or 7). Walk a half block to Della Notte Restaurant for fine Italian cuisine in a Mediterranean, villa-style setting. Home made pasta and an on-site bakery make your taste buds swoon. Also, walk another block to LaScala Ristorante, an intimate, cozy setting with a full range of Italian delights.

For more information on a Baltimore getaway call 1-877-BALTIMORE or visit If the baseball schedule makers cooperate there may be a trip heading here next season.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy birthday America!

Today as we celebrate our nation's birthday day I'd like to share a wonderful historic site Fort McHenry located in Baltimore MD. This structure & its history is the inspiration behind our national anthem.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,” a large red, white and blue banner? “Whose broad stripes and bright stars . . . were so gallantly streaming!” over the star-shaped Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814. The valiant defense of the fort by 1,000 dedicated Americans inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The fort brings our history alive with it's exhibits and living history presentations. A don't miss is their informational video that has a sensational ending. You'll just have to visit this national shrine to discover the ending for yourself.
There is plenty to see and do in the Baltimore area but I'll save that for later.

For a virtual tour of Ft. McHenry visit

Unbelievable deal to Ireland

I've found a great deal to Ireland. You might shop around and a find a deal or two but nothing this outrageous. You could spend $499 per person on airfare alone, or get this amazing 6-night fly-drive & stay package from Sceptre Tours for the same price, when you travel December-February. OR, travel in October or November for just $100 more.

The package includes:

· Roundtrip airfare from New York, Boston, Chicago or Washington D.C. (Just add on the domestic flights to complete your itinerary)
· 6 nights in 3-4 star hotels throughout Ireland
· Economy Car rental with unlimited mileage (manual transmission). Upgrade to automatic transmission for $79 and get free GPS navigation.
· Full Irish breakfast each morning

If you were to put this package together yourself, you would end up paying over $1000 per person.

The package includes accommodations in Dublin, Clare and Mayo, giving you access to both coasts, and popular spots like the Cliffs of Moher. The best part is that you with the unlimited car rental you can see Ireland at your own leisure, stopping as you please.

Blackout Dates: December 17-31 (the package may be available over these dates for an additional price)

Call your favorite travel agent, go to or call 800-221-0924 Monday-Friday from 9am-7pm ET, or Saturday from 11am-3pm to speak with an Ireland specialist. July 4 hours are 9am-2pm. There is an additional $25 per person concierge fee for phone bookings, so I recommend booking with your local travel agent or online. One advantage of booking with a live person is that they can help you with the add on flights to your departure gateway.