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, September 28, 2007

Discounted off season travel to Europe

As the travel rush to Europe and other places subsides so does the demand for passports hence the drop in waiting time. With the hordes of tourists boarding the cruise ships and jet liners and returning home the demand for over seas travel drops. Very often the drop in the numbers of tourists is very dramatic. The museums, restaurants and shops are near empty. The flights are lightly booked and many hotels have plenty of unoccupied rooms. To generate interest in off peak travel the suppliers frequently offer discount programs that can result in savings up to 50 % to 75% off of their previous high summer rates.

Low season travel to Europe generally runs from December through March which is when you typically can find the best bargains. Travel in October, November, April and May travel is frequently termed shoulder season and discounts are available but generally not as much as during low season. Of course the summer months are the most heavily traveled period and demand the higher fares.
There are always exceptions to these seasonal guidelines so I encourage you to compare dates and destinations as you seek the great buy.

A good place to start researching your European getaway is a visit to the European Travel Commission website at: This is a comprehensive site of 36 European nations and offers a wealth of information. Start by visiting your country or area of interests’ official tourism web site and from here you should find links to many of the supplier deals and discounts. Due diligent research, take excellent notes then head down to your local travel for their assistance in booking your perfect European holiday.

I personally love to travel to Europe in the fall and spring. Summer is wonderful with everything in bloom and pleasant weather but the major cities and tourist attractions remind me of Disney World. That means people and crowds everywhere, queuing up for everything. By traveling during low or off season that translates into instead of standing in line at the Louve Museum in Paris you can spend hours inside browsing their collections. You can have a leisurely meal at a charming sidewalk café without being rushed through affair or waiting hours for a table. That room in that quaint little quest house on the market square in now available and affordable. Standing room only on the trains is a distant memory as there is plenty of open seating. You have plenty of space to roam, explore and discover the charms of the old world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More $10.00 flights out of Columbus Ohio!

Skybus Airlines, the new low-fare airline flying out of CMH (Columbus, OH) just announced service to 4 new cities: Milwaukee WI, Punta Gorda FL (near Ft. Myers), Gulfport, MS and Chattanooga TN.

The Skybus ( claim to fame is the fact that they offer the first 10 seats on every flight on sale for just $10 each way; taxes, surcharges and other fees are extra. As these $10.00 seats sell out the fare increase based on the load factor (airline lingo for the number of people booked on a specific flight).

I browsed flight availability for a conference that I’d like to attend in San Diego and found that a Feb 28th to Mar. 5th journey would cost $145.80 including taxes. Baggage fees and food would be additional but hey with what I saved I could afford it. Plus the Skybus flights are scheduled nonstop unlike the connecting (you physically get off one plane and change to another one) flights offered by the other major carriers. Did I mention that the other lowest roundtrip was $236.00 inclusive?

We travelers should support these airline pioneers then we should expect to continue to receive value priced flights from them and the legacy carriers like American and United will have to adjust their fares downward to compete with the upstarts. If we fail to support Skybus and other non traditional carriers then the only people we have to blame about high airfares and connecting service is us.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Computer less part 2

After a few web less days it dawned on me! Wow what a difference the unlinked world is. I can really empathize with my unlinked mother and the hundreds of thousands of other consumers like her. Trying to get an answer from a real customer service agent these days is a real chore.

These responses made me think about the Web and the million plus sites that we users have the pleasure to search. Many of the web sites are designed by technical geniuses and what may seem fairly obvious to these folks does not transfer over to the end users, namely you and me.

How many times have you visited a web site and been frustrated by the inability to locate basic information? Why in the world do designers go to such great links to bury information like telephone contact numbers and mailing addresses deep in the site? How many clicks does it take to find out what the product really costs? Are these sites or a memorial to the people that design and maintain them or really an easy to use product distribution tool?

In today’s business climate companies that can blend technology with live personal service should clean up and some are starting too. And I believe that we will continue to a see a migration towards customer focused business. Customer service that had been outsourced to another continent is now being returned to America shores. Telephone lines with a real person at the other have been added. Many companies are remaking their business model to a person oriented firm supported with technology instead of massive technology supported by an occasional warm body that developed in the last few decades.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Computer less in a tech driven world

Ouch! I've been computer less for about a week and didn’t realize how attached I was to these machines.

First a recycler virus infected the home desktop. The same annoying “stop spy ware” website kept attempting to load & locking up the machine. After my futile efforts of running virus and anti-spy ware scans failed it was time to take the tower to the shop for a cleansing.

Then the lap top failed at my office. Here I am with two computers and both of them in the shop at the same time. Sure I could have headed down the hallway to the computer lab but that just did not feel right.

Dead in the water I had to resort to doing work the old fashioned way. Pen and paper in hand I preceded in what I considered a very inefficient fashion.

I don’t recall the last time I wrote my notes out long hand. I’m always (or it seems) using a word processor program to type out my outlines, letters and other correspondence.

Hours were spent holding on the phone as I tried to obtain information from companies. Many of the responses from the human at the other end of telephone attempted to steer me to their websites. All the answers and information that I required was posted on the Internet. I just had to access their site and navigate to the appropriate sections. Talk about passing the buck and a lack of customer concern.

More on the tech world to follow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Love a mystery? Enjoy local history? Like to travel? Need college credit?

Consider enrolling in one of Ohio University’s “Education on Location” departures. This program brings the educational experience to life as you travel to and explore where history was made first hand. The pre, post and travel phases of your study program reinforce your learning comprehension and understanding of the subject matter. You can also earn undergraduate and graduate credit as we take you to memorable historic venues. Credit courses are just not limited to history trips of discovery as we offer classes in other disciplines like art, music, English and education.

The next Travel Professor and Ohio University mobile class is an upcoming mystery tour that focuses on the early frontier in the Ohio River Valley along with the African American Underground Railroad experience. This escorted motor coach trip departs Ironton on Friday morning October 26 and returns Saturday evening October 27th. For more information on this departure or more of our educational tours visit the group specials link posted at or contact me at 740.533.4559.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Track air fares & locate deals

An acquaintance asked me the other day” Why are air fares always so high into Savannah? I checked with my travel agent and they said that they are always high into here. Any ideas on how we can get a special price?”

Yes I had a few suggestions and gladly offered them to her now I share these with you.

First off most traditional travel agents will gladly give you a quote on the fare that applies for the dates that you want to travel on. A good agent will offer advice like if you wait two weeks to purchase your tickets and travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday and spend a Saturday night there you’ll qualify for a much lower fare. They might also recommend an alternative departure or arrival airport. The idea here being drive a little and save a lot.

But it’s highly doubtful if they will help track the fare changes for you. This is where you will need to monitor the ups and downs of the airline pricing puzzle and keep a keen eye on the destinations that you wish to travel to. Harness the power of the Internet and use the wonderful fare watching tools that some of the free on-line fare tracking programs and let them do the work for you.

My personal favorite is Once you become a member and membership is free you can use their fare watcher to track 5 different sets of originating and arrival airports. The tools available here are wonderful. You can search a range of dates, specify a certain fare level and when the air fare falls into your search parameters they notify you by email.

Immediately and I stress immediately once you receive a notification of a great price now is the time to call or stop into your favorite travel agent to book and buy the ticket. Or use your favorite on-line travel agency but buy it! The only constant about air fares is that they are always changing. Once booked and ticketed your fare normally is guaranteed and will not change unless you make voluntary changes.

If the air fare drops into your price thresh hold buy it!

So you’re not computer savvy? No problem. You probably have a friend, relative or someone who would gladly act as your Internet connection. My sister in law monitors fares for my mother and when she gets alerts she contacts Mom who then contacts her travel agent.

Enlist the support of a tech buddy and you’ll stay up to date on air fares into your selected destinations.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sold out hotels & people in the streets

Although it was not a good day for Marshall fans, it was a winning effort for West Virginia tourism. Hotels in Huntington and Barboursville were sold out for Friday and Saturday nights and a few phones that I made indicated that some of the football crowd overflowed in Ohio and Kentucky hotels.

In addition to the revenues generated by in the lodging industry I'm sure local restaurants and bar did brisk business. Retail shops should have benefited too as last minute fans picked up the appropriate green & white or blue & gold item.

Another great example of how inbound tourism can benefit our region.

Over on the banks of the Ohio at Ironton's riverfront there's a "Rock on The River" tonight that is drawing a crowd. According to the staff at the Fuzzy Duck restaurant they've received a far amount of tickets requests from out of town visitors. One of the most asked questions by these visitors had been "where can we stay!"

Now imagine what happens when the casino is Cross Lanes takes off.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Inbound tourism part 2

Last Saturday (1 Sep 07) over here on the Buckeye side of the Ohio River and maybe even over on the KY & WVA side there was a special TV event. Due to a change in programming most viewers would not be able to watch Ohio State’s opening football game. It was not broadcast on local TV channels nor was available on most cable TV packages. You needed to buy a special subscription so most fans were shut out.

Imagine what would happen if the Marshall versus WVU game was essentially blacked out? Outrage and insurrection! No I’m not advocating storming the TV and cable stations.

Getting back to the OSU game I ventured into a local riverfront dining establishment that was packed with scarlet and grey clad fans and I enjoyed some of their super buffalo, sweet potato fries and a few quarters of football. I dropped about $30.00 during my stay, $30.00 that I never would have spent at this restaurant on this specific Saturday if the game was my cable TV.

During my stay at the pub I couldn’t help but notice that the waiters and waitresses were in constant motion serving food and beverages and the cash register kept ringing. I’m sure this was not a normal Saturday afternoon at this riverside locale and the owners were pleased. If I could interview them I’m sure they would ask for more events that would generate crowds and revenue.

Tally up these expenditures at all of the Ironton locales and I’m sure every owner would praise the benefit of this special event and clamor for more money making opportunities.

Next weekend the hotels, restaurants, gas stations, pubs and many other establishments in WVA should benefit from the big MU vs WVU game.

The challenges to us in the Tri-State are to embrace these visitors, make them feel welcome and encourage them to return.

Monday, September 3, 2007

More on inbound tourism

Recently I commented on the potential economic impact of port stops in our region by the riverboats and barges that cruise up & down the Ohio River. Let me continue and expand my observations on the financial impact of a recent tourism related special event in our destination.

First a few definitions:
· Tourism: The practice of traveling for pleasure. I don’t put a mileage cap or restriction on this. WE ALL CAN BE TOURISTS in our own community. How many times have you driven by a certain attraction and never stopped? Yes, I’m guilty of this too!
· Destination: A place that a tourist elects to spend time and MONEY, the most important part of this definition.

OK let me try and pull this all together for you. Check back and I’ll share with you how & when I played tourist in my home town of Ironton.