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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Off the Net

My hotel did have a business center complete with a computer work station but they were experiencing "wireless" issues so I could not log on to the Net. The desk clerk was completely indifferent to this situation and I got the impression that he (or management) could care less about this guest service.

At breakfast some of the regular corporate guests shared that at this property the lack of Internet service was a common occurrence. Even the wireless in their room's frequently did not work. They were annoyed and would have stayed at another property but because of the super rate and corporate travel policies that had to remain here. They stated that they found other "hotspots" and did their work at these locations.

This is the 2nd recent lack of Internet access & staff indifference that I've experienced with this major hotel chain. One more third strike and it's time for this guy to move this hotel chain into the do not book category.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Off of the Net

I'm heading up to Ohio's North Coast for some Major League baseball between the Cincinnati Reds & Cleveland Indians plus some other local touring. Time & schedule permitting I hope to catch the single A baseball team Lake County Captains too!

My laptop is in the shop and I'm not sure what Internet access will be available at the hotel so I'm signing off of the Internet for a few days.

Happy travels!

More on mass public transportation

I have been fortunate to travel the national railroad systems in continental Europe and Great Britain and have weaned myself off of the automobile when traveling abroad. I’ve traveled effortless between countries and have on occasions used the train as my rolling overnight lodging place. Whether it’s Rail Europe, Britrail, the Tubes in London, the Metro in Paris or the S or U Bahn in Munich public transportation in the Old World is convenient, accessible and affordable.

In this country cities like Boston, Chicago, New York and yes even Cleveland OH have wonderful mass public transit systems and I hope that many other destinations study these systems and implement comparable options in their locales.

On a more local note I am also glad to see the linking of the Tri-States with TTA bus service. Starting July 1 bus service will link all three states. Soon you can travel over the river and through the neighborhoods of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. I am still trying to decipher the schedules but it appears that you can depart Ironton and with a transfer or two make it to Pullman Square downtown Huntington.

Admittedly utilizing public transportation means that you travel on their schedule but for the cost savings and convenience this may be a small sacrifice to make. Take the bus and save a bundle.

If you agree that we need to improve our nation’s mass transit then contact your elected officials in your state’s capitol and Washington DC and let them know that you support the redevelopment of mass public transportation in our country.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Good news for U.S. passenger rail service operator Amtrak

Bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill in Washington DC recently provided great news for Amtrak, the United States passenger rail system. The Senate and House of Representatives over rode President Bush’s threatened veto of Amtrak funding legislation and authorized nearly $15 billion of support for passenger rail service.

Amtrak's boosters say the high cost of driving has made people eager for more and better rail service. A record 25.8 million passengers took Amtrak in the last fiscal year and the railroad expects ridership to approach 28 million this year.

The railroad's supporters say that a new authorization will allow Amtrak to make long-range plans and take advantage of what they say is a growing appetite for passenger rail.

Amtrak has its problems slow trains and delays plus limited service areas but it is an alternative mode of transportation. As demand increases and ridership improves Amtrak can only get better.

I have been fortunate to travel the national railroad systems in continental Europe and Great Britain and have weaned myself off of the automobile when I travel abroad. Public transportation in the Old World is convenient, accessible and affordable and hopefully will serve as a model for this country.

Amtrak has had its critics over the years but as gas passes $4.00 a gallon it hopefully will become a major player in this country.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great news for travel agents

Carnival Cruise Lines Chairman and CEO Micky Arison offered up some great news for travel agents this week during a second-quarter earnings call this week. He stated that Carnival Cruise Lines will continue to reduce its direct business practices and increase its reliance on travel agents for sales.

"I think it's very important to state that the travel agency distribution system has been an effective and efficient distribution system for this company for 35 years, and it got us to where we are," Arison said. "So we clearly believe that we need to continue to support them [travel agents] and they have shown this year they can give us the yield improvements we need to overcome at least partially the higher fuel costs."

In street terms this means that instead of trying to sell their products directly to travelers via their Internet site or Carnival call centers the cruise line will refer potential cruisers to travel agents.

A move by an industry leader like Carnival may prompt other cruise lines and other travel companies to shift their sales focus back to the travel agency industry.

Be kind to your travel agent and get out of town!

Got travel questions? Email them to

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vacations are good for you

Remember that the vacation idea is to break away from your everyday life and do something different. Otherwise your time away from your regular routine is not really a vacation or time off. It becomes nothing more than a stressful extension of your regular life. You are not benefiting from your vacation at all.

I truly believe that a break from your normal surroundings and everyday activities is good for the body, mind and soul. This belief is based on my personal experiences and observations plus review of the literature and research concerning the benefits of vacations.

Vacations are a getaway from the norm. In no specific order here is my short list on some of the benefits of a vacation.

A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves allowing us to look outside the box (our daily grind) and improve/increase our thinking and problem solving skills while enhancing our creativity.

A good vacation helps prevent us from burning out. According to researchers workers who take regular time off to relax are less likely to experience burnout. This time away keeps us fresh more creative and productive than our overworked, under-rested counterparts.

A good vacation or taking time from the daily grind allows you to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby lowering and/or keeping stress levels down which can keep you healthier.

Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact studies have found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.

Studies also suggest that the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.

The bottom line is that taking a good amount of time away from the stresses of daily life can give us the break we need so that we can return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.

While not everyone is able to take a vacation the benefits for those who can take several days, a week or two off for a trip are immeasurable. To paraphrase a TV commercial the value of a vacation is priceless.

To read more about the benefits of vacations read Alina Tugend article “Vacations Are Good for You, Medically Speaking” in the June 7th edition of The New York Times ( and The Travel Industry of America’s news release at

Got travel questions? Email the Travel Professor at t

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Staycation: What in the world is it?

With escalating fuel costs driving up the prices of just about everything one of the current buzzes in the travel industry is the “staycation". What in the world is a “staycation”?

Well a “staycation” is a vacation spent at your home in your hometown. I would also like to add day touring to the definition. You use your home as a base of operations and conduct day trips from it.

If done right a “staycation” can be just as relaxing and offer up the same benefits as the traditional vacation. And in some ways, it can be even more stress-relieving because it typically involves less planning and expense.

However certain measures need to be taken to maximize the benefits of a staycation. Turn off the ringers on all your communication devices, the Blackberry, land line and cell phone. Also try to avoid logging onto the computer and checking business emails and do not perform other normal on-line activities. Stop the newspaper and have your mail stopped.

Remember that the vacation idea is to break away from your everyday life and do something different. Otherwise your time away from your regular routine is not really a vacation or time off. It becomes nothing more than a stressful extension of your regular life. You are not benefiting from your vacation at all.

In my next few posts I'll talk about the benefits of vacations and offer up some more "staycation" ideas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on culinary tourism

Local travel agencies and tour operators have recently conducted trips to Savannah GA to visit “The Lady and Sons” restaurant. This is an establishment owned and operated by Paula Dean a celebrity chef on the Food Channel.

Regionally, nationally and internationally we are seeing many of the tourism players taking note of this trend and developing and marketing culinary journeys.

Napa Valley in California has long been known for its vineyards and winery tours and now the state of Ohio now has developed its own wine and cheese trail. For years Cajun, French and Italian cooking schools attracted a very small clientele but the cooking arts and culinary skills have now gone main stream.

Imagine the number of patrons that would sign on if the restaurant firm “Olive Garden” offered an “eat your way through Italy” tour program. Or maybe Jim's Spaghetti House would be a great sponsor too!

With this is mind I guess that I need to head over to Portsmouth and talk with the fine folks at either the microbrewery Portsmouth Brewing Company or the Port City Café the local Irish pub. Or perhaps have a chat with the owners of Ironton’s own Toro Loco. From a culinary tourism perspective the cultural nature of their cuisines and beverages could lead to the development of a tour to Ireland, Mexico and Germany/Czech Republic.

Moving back towards a more local focus what uniquely southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western West Virginia strongly Appalachian delicacy or beverage can we promote?

I have some ideas but I really need more suggestions. Email them to me at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Culinary tourism, Marshall University & the Greenbrier Resort

Everyone must eat. This is a pretty simple statement but I do not think that any of you will disagree with me. Whether we are at home, work, or on the road traveling to the mall or an exotic destination we need sustenance. Some of us “eat to live” while another faction really “live to eat” and then there are some people that migrate from group to group depending on many variable circumstances.

This action has been observed by the travel and tourism industry and a new special interest niche of Culinary Tourism has evolved. Sampling local dishes and beverages has always been a component of many peoples’ travels but today we see trips and tours designed around food and beverage.

Culinary Tourism is a relatively new industry. In fact, culinary tourism as an industry did not coming into being until the year 2001, when International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA) President Erik Wolf distributed his culinary tourism white paper.

Food for many has moved to center stage. One just has to look at the expansion of the Food Channel on TV, the growth of specialty cookware & cutlery stores and the popularity of learn to cook classes and workshops. In Huntington
Marshall’s Cooking and Culinary Institute offers a wide range of special cooking classes and a chef’s training program.

Add a little travel to the mix and head to White Sulpfur Springs WV Greenbrier Resort and enroll in one of their
Gourmet Cooking Classes. Here as students under the direction of renowned Chefs you will be able to hone your skills in a professional kitchen then sit down with a specially selected glass of wine and enjoy your own cooking efforts. If you watched Barbeque University on TV you should have some of the shows were hosted here too.

Stay tuned as there’s more to come on culinary travel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Medically speaking travel is good for you

Daily I receive hundreds of email messages which are actually way too many! Airlines, cruise companies, hotels, tour operators, destination tourism offices just about any imaginable combination of companies, organizations and individuals feel that they need to share their knowledge with me. Many of these messages that clog my inbox are junk or affectionately called spam ones ready to be added to the trash file.

I’ve been working on reducing my subscriptions to various newsletters and travel industry briefings but an occasionally one still provide timely insights. Here’s a recent one that I’d like to share.

Today the Travel Industry of America forwarded this New York Times article titled
“Vacations Are Good for You, Medically Speaking” to me. Open this link read the article and ponder the points.

I have always been a proponent of the benefits of travel but admittedly I make my living in travel industry so my opinion may be biased. However I’ve seen the positive effects of travel and vacations as it affects the lives of couples, families, singles, students and businesses.

You don’t have to travel around the world you just have to travel. Change the American vacation concept of painting or cleaning your house and drive across town or an hour away and expand your horizons. Check out the Huntington Museum of Art, Ashland’s Highland Museum or the flood murals in Portsmouth, Ironton or Catlettsburg. Dine in an unusual restaurant, shop in an ethnic store visit a historic church or cathedral just break your normal routine and do something different.

I believe that current buzz word “staycation” refers to this concept of traveling locally. I’ll touch on this trend in later posts.

In summation to use a well worn popular marketing cliché “Just Do It”!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

USAirways nixes peanuts & pretzels

On page 10 of today’s (7 June 08) print edition of Huntington’s Herald Dispatch they noted that USAirways was discontinuing serving free peanuts and pretzels aboard their flights. The article indicated that these snacks cost the airline $0.03 per passengers. Yes that’s three (3) cents a head.

You might ask does three (3) pennies really matter. So I decided to pull some statistics on load factors and passengers boarded to determine what the carrier was actually saving.

In January and February 2008 USAirways enplaned
944, 000 passengers. At $.03 cents a head they would have saved about $28,000.00 for that period. Expand these estimates for the year and an annual savings estimate would be around $170,000.00.

I’ve got to figure out what costs I can cut around the Travel Professor’s house to save that sort of money. Any suggestions anyone?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fare shopping: Planes, trains, busses & automobiles

My son has been asking very nicely for me to take him to Washington DC this summer. So this is the perfect scenario for an experiment that compares the costs of different modes of transportation. We have decided to research the cost of travel by air, train, bus or car.

The data set for our little experiment is 2 adults and one 7 year old (AAA members) departing Ashland KY/Huntington WV on Wednesday July 2nd with a return on Sunday July 6th. We are just going to collect fare data then compare the differences. Not only will this be some good father and son bonding time but also a subtle way to work on his math and Internet search skills.

Our plan is to research these websites and input the identical data for each fare quote. Please keep your fare comparison search data statistics consistent or you will get skewed responses. All keep in mind that fares are subject to change and the best way to guarantee them is to reserve and purchase.

For our air flights we selected I prefer this site as in my opinion it displays unbiased multiple fare displays plus will search other regional airports. My air preference is Washington Reagan-National (DCA) but I’ll also consider Washington Dulles (IAD).
Rail travel prices and schedules were obtained at and for bus rates we visited There are not as many options here concerning the arrival point but both sites were fairly user friendly.

I contacted Rena Sparks, office manager at the Ironton AAA office, and she provided the driving distance as 426 miles each way and referred me to a fuel calculator at I also checked and determined the driving allowance to be $0.505 a mile. The 1st figure we would calculate would be total estimated fuel usage while the second one would be an average of fuel, wear, tear, etc on my vehicle.

Now our findings for a search conducted on June 5th at 2:00pm.

Plane: $547.00 per round-trip ticket with about 4 hours of travel time

Bus: $91.50 per adult and $55.30 per round-trip ticket with the shortest duration trip being just over 15 hours.

Train: $141.00 per round-trip ticket with both trips lasting about 11 hours.

Car: about $137.00 in gas costs (852 miles roundtrip at 25 miles per gallon and $4.00 per gallon) only or $403.26 using the fuel/maintenance/usage cost calculation at $0.505 a mile @ 1000) with about 9 to 10 drive time each way.

Now that we have collected all the data it is time to analyze and interpret it and plot a course of action. This may prove challenging for a 7 year old but we are working on his thinking skills.
Air is out of the picture way as it is way too expensive plus I would not look forward to over 15 hours on a Greyhound so that mode is out. There is a cheaper air option of $162.00 per person flying out of Columbus (CMH) into Baltimore (BWI) but now you’ve got to drive further to the airport then monkey around with surface transportation from BWI to DC. Plus I’ve changed all the travel constants so a fair comparison of travel modes is not possible.

This leaves rail or the daddy driving option. The prices are pretty comparable but Amtrak has a poor arrival/departure track record so an 11 hour trip could really get stretched out into a much longer one. If I was traveling alone I would just take a couple extra books and endure any delays but I just can’t justify this option on this specific trip.

I will not need a car in DC as we will use the public transportation system but for this trip the PT Cruiser seems to be the way to go.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Weight based airfares?

When it comes to cutting costs amid skyrocketing fuel prices, mamy airline CEOs & CFOs may not rule any unique strategies.

Removing blankets & pillows or reducing weight by restricting luggage makes sense but here is a new idea submitted by one airline industry consultant: Charge passengers based on the body weight of their passengers.

My hope is that this consultant gets the job of weighing in the passengers. I'm sure that he/she won't last the shift!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Philly's Amish & farmers market

Just 5 blocks beyond the historic district at 12th and Arch Streets is the Reading Terminal Market. Established in 1893, according to local lore this is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market and according to me one of the greatest public markets in the country. During a visit here you can sample just about any type of cuisine, all the way from authentic Philly Cheese steaks sandwiches, traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare to ethnic Asian delicacies from stands that are basically family owned and operated.

A portion of the market is primarily devoted to Amish merchants who bring their farm fresh organically grown vegetables and distinctive prepared dishes to the Market four days a week. A real treat is to watch as Amish bakers twist and bake soft pretzels right in front of your eyes then try one while it is still warm from the oven. Don’t forget the mustard it really tops off the salty pretzels.

The Market features more than 80 unique merchants, three of which are descendants of original stand holders from when it opened more than 110 years ago. Sit-down eateries are scattered throughout the market and the lines form long before the traditional lunch hour. You’ll see bankers in business suits along side tourists enjoying the tasty treats offered up here.This is the place to find hand made Amish crafts and quilts, loads of fresh produce, dairy products, exotic meats and seafood. The flower stands offer colorful displays of freshly cut flowers while other merchants peddle cookbooks, gourmet Asian foods and organically grown fruit smoothies.

Reading Terminal Market is well worth the visit and makes a great lunch or dinner break from your Philadelphia touring adventure. I know that I will be added this as a stop on my next group trip to Philly.

Another shopping and dining stop on my itinerary is the
Lexington Street Market, a few blocks removed from the Inner Harbor area in downtown Baltimore MD.

But then that is another city on another day so it’s another story.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Olde Towne" Philadelphia

At the time of the American Revolution (circa 1775-1787) Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies, a major industrial port city and the home to the Continental Congress. The history of this revolutionary period is preserved in a historic district termed “Old Towne”.

If time permits, don't limit your visit to
Independence National Historical Park to just the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall. You can easily spend two or three days exploring the sites here. From Front Street to 7th Street and between Market & Race Street you can stroll the 20 city blocks which span over 55 acres as you discover much of our country's most important resources that are associated with the establishment of the United States of America. These sites include the First and Second Banks of the United States, Congress Hall and Old City Hall. Additionally, the park tells the story of Philadelphia's most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin, in Franklin Court, where Franklin's home once stood.

OK I’m repeating myself from past posts but I think that Philadelphia does not get enough credit and is missing from many tourists’ maps and itineraries. The Greater Philadelphia Visitors and Convention has a great
website and it will provide you with plenty of sightseeing suggestions and options.

In my travels here I’ve stayed outside the city center and used the public transit system to get around. Like Boston Philly is a great walking city plus its excellent transit system is the best way to get around town. The
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) offers a very comprehensive bus/subway/commuter-rail system and trolley commuter services that will get you anywhere you need to go or at least very close. At about $6.00 a person the day passes are the way to go.

My visits here have been history oriented but there is a wealth of other things to see and do, plenty of attractions for families and the non history type. I’ll touch on these options in later posts.