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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dining out Chicago style

Chicagoans are famous for taking two food classics very seriously: pizza and hot dogs. Sample these two favorites during your visit so you can officially join in the debate and savior the experience with the locals.

Personally I prefer a thin crust pizza but the loaded Chicago style deep dish pizza is unbelievable. A debate rages over who invented the first deep dish pizza but two of my favorites are Pizzeria Uno and Giordano’s. These dining options are very popular so arrive early or make reservations.
According to my seat mates at Wrigley Field a Chicago Style Hot Dog is a steamed all beef hot dog topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, onions, tomato wedges, pickle spear or slice, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt served in the all-important steamed poppy seed bun.

The toppings are just as important as the order they are applied to the Hot Dog. Add toppings in the following order:

· Yellow Mustard
· Bright Green Relish-I swear this stuff would glow in the dark.
· Fresh Chopped Onions
· Two Tomato Wedges
· A Pickle Spear or Slice
· Two Sport Peppers
· A Dash of Celery Salt

My preference is just a dog slathered in
Cleveland Stadium mustard but I tried a few of the Chicago mutts and found them both tasty and filling.

Another discovery was
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap. It’s right downtown at the corner of Wabash and Superior. It serves up your typical pub grub but I was thinking about tackling their 8 pound monster burger. After all I polished off the Norm Burger at Boston’s Bull and Finch pub. You know the one made famous by the TV show Cheers. However after I saw one of Jake's monster burgers on the platter I decided that a regular Jake burger would do.

Regardless of your tastes you are bound to find it in Chicago land. From contemporary dining to ethnic Chinese to soul food the dining scene is stunning. Whether you’re downtown or in one of the 77 neighborhoods excellent dining opportunities abound.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Play ball!

Playing football in northeastern Ohio in the summer months can be brutal. It can be summed up in two words: heat and humidity. Watching games of the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship this past weekend at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium left me soaked and sun fried.

Having spent many summers up here on the gridiron coaching high school and college ball I was prepared for the elements. My kit consisted of plenty of SPF 60 sun block, a few towels, spare t-shirts and a cooler full of water and OJ.

The quality of play was good but what really impressed me was the crowd. It was a festive, carnival like atmosphere something you do not experience around here in high school football. NOTE: Most of the players were of high school age or recent graduates.

The cheering, noisemaking and waving of country flags reminded me of fans at international soccer tournaments that I’ve seen. Fans from the participating teams (I mean countries) apparently had flocked in mass to Canton and supported their national teams.

The Viking helmets complete with REAL not plastic horns were the dead give always for the supporters of the Swedish team.

There are a few more days of competition this week so if you’re having a football craving head up I-77 North to Canton OH.

A little change of topic-hopefully this enthusiasm carries over to the incoming soccer tournaments in the Barboursville area. Drive on over and check out the games. spend some time and better yet a few bucks.

Even better yet if you can volunteer some time and help make these games a success contact the fine folks at the Huntington-Cabell County Convention and Visitors Bureau and let them know you want to assist.

My schedule is packed but if I had the chance I'd be on the soccer pitches.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On the road again to Canton, OH home of professional football.

I’m off to the Junior World Championship of American Football in Canton OH this weekend and my laptop is staying docked on campus. That means I’ll be off the Net until Monday. If you’re a football fan plan a visit to the area visit and catch a game or two of the Junior American Football World Championship series.

Canton is home to to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the games are being played at Fawcett Stadium adjacent to the HOF.

Happy travels!

Shopping downtown Chicago style

A visit to Chicago wouldn't be complete without some shopping time. Shopping in Chicago began on State Street (that great street!) with the opening of the original Marshall Field’s Department store in 1852. Today, the former Field’s flagship store is known as Macy's on State Street and shoppers still find an outstanding selection of men’s and women’s apparel, an extensive house wares department, several fine restaurants, a food court and a visitor center.

Your shopping experience must include a stroll along the fabled “Magnificent Mile”. This strip runs along Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River. Amidst department store giants such as Marshall Field’s, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, are hundreds of specialty shops and boutiques offering goods from around the world. Oak Street, just west of Michigan Avenue, is a boutique shopper’s dream.

An abundance of shopping can also be found at The Shops at North Bridge, Water Tower Place, the 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops, Chicago Place Shopping Center, Navy Pier and “The Shops at the Mart” located at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

I've always wanted to return to the "Magnificent Mile" during the December holiday period to view the holiday decorations. I imagine that the displays will be stunning.

On this visit my window shopping excursion worked up an appetite. There are plenty of national chain restaurants and famous local eateries but I’ll save Chicago style dining for a separate post.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicago freebies makes it my kind of town.

One of the many things that surprises and delights visitors to Chicago is how easy this world-class city is on their wallets. Some of the city's most extraordinary attractions and cultural institutions are free every day, and many other popular visitor must-sees offer free days at least once a week! Treasures like famed Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park, and Chicago Cultural Center, which offers a mind-boggling array of music, art and theater, charge no admission fee and are open nearly every day of the year with exciting things for visitors of all ages to see and do. And these are just a fraction of the options available. Check out the current Chicago freebies here.

The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau has put together a few of their favorite freebies to share with you. They (the CVB) or your travel planner will work with you to create a customized itinerary designed to meet your particular interests, budget and time.

A Night (or days) at the Museums: Chicago Style

Chicago is a bustling, energetic city that never stops no matter the season. It’s a destination with world-class cultural attractions, diverse neighborhoods and architectural wonders. Chicago is known for critically acclaimed restaurants, world-famous museums, first-class shopping, adventurous nightlife, action-packed sporting events and a thriving theater scene.

Chicago is world-renowned for its diverse collection of museums, which explore a variety of subjects including Chicago history, art, African-American culture, astronomy, natural history and much more.

Those visiting Chicago should plan on spending time at Chicago’s Museum Campus. This scenic park along the shores of Lake Michigan conveniently links the
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.

The Shedd Aquarium offers one of the world’s largest array of more than 8,000 aquatic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish. After exploring the oceans, attendees can gaze up at the heavens in the nearby Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. The Field Museum offers exciting displays of mummies, Egyptian tombs, Native American artifacts, and dinosaur skeletons are on display. It is also the permanent home of Sue, the world's largest, most complete and most famous Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Other Chicagoland museums include
the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute of Chicago (one of the world’s leading art museums), the DuSable Museum of African-American History , the Museum of Contemporary Art, and if children are along be sure to plan a stop at Navy Pier’s Children’s Museum.

This is my short list. There are just too many venues to list. A complete list can be obtained at the city’s
Michigan Avenue’s visitor’s center located across from the historic water tower. This is located at the northern end of the famed shopping strip termed the “Magnificent Mile”.

Next time I’ll take you on a Chicago style shopping excursion. Happy travels!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chicago is my kind of town

Chicago has that feel. Just like the one I get when I’m in Boston, Gettysburg, Munich and Prague. You know the sensation it is warm, inviting, comfortable and familiar. Not the cold and distant vibes like I receive when in New York City or Los Angeles.

The “Windy City” has everything to offer to the traveler. You can experience world class art, history, architecture, shopping, dining, theater, cultural diversity, education, museums and sports. You will find e plenty of additional categories and other activities that I’ve left off this list.
It’s easy to get to as it is only an hour flight out of Columbus Ohio with airfare costs as low as $78.00 roundtrip these days. My preferred gateway is
Midway Airport as it’s less congested than O’Hare and in my opinion easier to navigate. Plus it is served by one of my favorite airlines Southwest. Even though they only serve free peanuts in flight the beverages are free and Southwest still does not have any baggage charges and their Rapid Rewards frequent traveler program is one of the best around.

After you arrive it’s easy to get around using the Chicago Transit System (the L) trains and buses. A 3 day unlimited pass only cost me $14.00. I jumped on the Orange Line at Midway Airport then transferred to the Red Line at the Roosevelt stop en route to Grand CTA stop. This stop is just north of the “Loop” district an area full of shops, restaurants and hotels. Exiting here it was a short two block walk to my hotel located in the heart of the downtown.

The “L” is convenient and it can take you to most of the areas attractions and neighborhoods. I’ll be using it quite a bit during my stay here and will keep you updated on my journeys and discoveries.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fare shopping Las Vegas via Wrigley Field in Chicago

I’m back from a great yet disappointing weekend road trip to Chicago. Chi'town is a great world class city but the outcomes of the weekend baseball games at Wrigley Field left this Cleveland Indians fan singing the blues(visit the Rush Street Blues clubs).

It was a weekend of discovery but I’ll share this information in later posts. I’d like to get back to my Las Vegas bachelor party research mission that I mentioned in my last post.

To review in my last post I commented on assisting my nephew in planning a getaway to Las Vegas. My approach was to compare booking an air & hotel package versus doing it a la carte-booking the air and hotel separately. I wanted to see which method offered the best price.

I preferred Southwest and USAirways as these carriers offered nonstop service from Columbus to Vegas but I’d go with the least expensive airline. Southwest would make it a bit more difficult as not all search engines offer their fares and availability but wanting the best value for my customer I expanded my search beyond, and My research established the best fare for their dates was $385.00 roundtrip traveling on Southwest.

My hotel choices were 2 to 3 star strip properties the Imperial Palace, Riviera, Circus Circus and the Excalibur. Bypassing any intermediaries I went directly to their websites inputted travel data and received a range of prices. There were some unbelievable rates on Thursday night but the weekend rates for Friday and Saturday greatly added to the cost. Also they had selected a busy weekend so rates were higher than normal. The best rate I found for lodging and taxes was at the Imperial and it broke down to $100.80 per man. Add this to the air of $385.00 and you have built a package of $485.80 a person.

Next step was to check out the tour operators and compare their prices. Again I’d shop Southwest, USAirways and the other carriers. Fortunately there is a travel agent only site that allowed me to shop these firms alongside additional suppliers and airlines.

The same package that I had created piece by piece priced out at $452.15 on Southwest Vacations, a savings of $33.65 a guy. But it (the price) gets better when I input a special vacation code "LVJUN" as this promotion deducts $30.00 a traveler. I’ve now got the price down to $422.15 a piece.

I’ll admit that there are cheap rates and better deals on different travel dates but I feel pretty confident that this was the best deal for the dates these guys want to go. If they were flexible or had planned ahead we might have been able to save them some more bucks.

Anyhow they were delighted with my offer of $422.15. It beat the lowest rate quote finally received from their local agents by $70.00 a person.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the road again.

I'm off to Chicago for some daytime baseball at historic Wrigley Field. I'll be joining the bleacher bums so check me out on WGN or Sports Time Ohio.

There will be time to play tourist and check out the sights plus some shopping on Michigan Avenue.

The laptop is staying docked so I'll be off the "Net" until next week. But I'll report my finding on this great destination soon.

Happy travels!

Building a business one customer at a time

My 22 year old nephew contacted the other day regarding travel arrangements. He had been tasked by his buddies as the point man on organizing a “bachelor” party to Las Vegas. He was frustrated as he perceived that his requests were not being taken seriously by the travel agents in his community.

I understood his situation completely. I thought of similar experiences shared with me by my students when trying to deal locally and the names of some local travel agents and agencies came to mind. They were just too busy to deal with these types of requests.

Yes too busy! His requests had been dismissed as a shopper and a waste of time. They never even considered him a potential client. After all professional travel agent has more important things on his or her agenda than to deal with this 20something year old and his travel plans.

You know that type of agent, the one that promised to call you back 6 months and you’re still sitting breathless by the phone waiting for it ring.

I feel that this is the wrong approach. These 20 year olds can develop into lifelong good customers. If I provide them with a good trip and great service they could become customers for a long time. Do a great job and they’ll tell their friends and associates about you and the agency. Free referral advertising is tough to beat.

Years ago (way before the Internet) I took the time with an unidentified lady to search for what seemed to be an impossible flight itinerary. Finally we pieced together a multiple connection flight and carrier flight. She booked her and her husband then thanked me for my time an effort. She added that she’d been to her regular travel agent and they blew her off. I could tell that I’d made her day.

About a week after her return from this trip she came into my office with very stern looking gentlemen. I collected my thoughts and said “Hi Rosalee. How was the trip?”
“Great “she replied and then continued by introducing me to her husband Jim. “We own XYZ Corp and want to speak with you about booking our corporate travel “she added.

I invested some time with her performed some research and gained a million dollar account.

Maybe one day my nephew or his friends will be in that situation and make some agents day.

Yes I did the get the guys booked into Vegas but that’s another story.

And yes I did upset my brother because he wasn't keen on the whole idea but then he wasn't footing the tab and his son is an adult. Sorry Bro!

Happy Travels!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A question from a newbie

Here's a recent question:

Hi Professor Call.

A friend of mine and I are looking to starting our own travel business. I'm truly a travel agent at heart. I help friends’ family find online deals and pretty much book everyone I know all the time. Why not get paid for it?

I wanted your opinion on the host site, Nexion. We reached out to them to receive more information, but we are kind of at a loss at where to start.

My friend is an incredible web designer and we've both got great people skills, so now we are just looking to take that first step. What do you suggest?

Thanks! Libby from Baton Rouge, La.

Libby: Thanks for a great question. What's new in LA?

First off a great web site helps but how are you going to drive customers to it. Once a business gets established and starts to generate referrals and builds a brand then the web traffic may increase.

I am still a believer in creating new business one personal customer contact at a time. As people persons apply my 3 foot rule. The length of an individual’s arm is roughly 3 feet so every time you meet someone and shake their hand say “Hi Libby. I’m a travel agent!” and let the conversation flow from there. The other rule which I frequently violate is to always have a business card.

Personal contact and interaction is something that the web has been incapable of providing so I feel that this is strong selling point as you are there to speak with them. Plus you’ve been playing that role without any compensation.

To be successful as a seller of travel you need to have product and destination knowledge along with sales and customer service skills. You don’t acquire these instantly by making a payment. These skills are learned and acquired along the way. Industry knowledge followed by lifelong learning is important in any field but even more vital in the travel agency business as the only constant is change. There are plenty of classes you can take locally or on line.

Here’s a great web site to get your started on your path: Kelly offers a free course that may answer many of your questions. Additional travel agent training classes are available at my website Once you affiliate with a host agency you’ll discover plenty of free on-line training classes.

As far as a host agency is concerned I suggest aligning with one that does not charge a large enrollment plus monthly fees, offers a generous commission share plus in your case as a novice plenty of free training.

Ok I’ve given you plenty of think about. Digest this information and feel free to contact at Don’t hesitate to contact me as I want to help you succeed in this endeavor.

Happy travels!

Friday, June 12, 2009

National Travel Promotion Act-contact your US Senator

Tourism offices or boards are designed to market their locations with the intent of enticing travelers to select them as their desired business or leisure destination. It’s a basic as it gets their efforts are geared to bring in travelers to spend money locally.

It’s an unbelievable fact that the United States has never had a national tourism promotion board or office. Just imagine the amount of revenue that could be generated by promoting our great nation.

Imagine the trickle down impact of foreign visitors in the Tri-State region who are participating in some of the best white water rafting trips in the world, hunting or fishing excursions or seeking out the roots of their expatriate Scots-Irish-Welsh ancestors.

The Travel Promotion Act will for the first time create a public-private partnership to promote travel to the United States, and help us compete with other countries by sending more welcoming messages to our friends around the world. And it will be done at no cost to American taxpayers. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will reduce the deficit by $425 million over 10 years.Debate on this legislation will continue for several days and several amendments may be offered. Some opponents of travel promotion will likely offer amendments to harm the program’s efficacy while others may try to attach pet projects to the legislation that have nothing to do with travel promotion. Our best chance to see this passed will be the result an industry-wide push to urge support from Senators across all 50 states.

I encourage you to contact your Senators and urge them to cosponsor and VOTE YES on S. 1023, the Travel Promotion Act.

Senate passage has the potential to fast-track the bill to enactment. President Obama, a co-sponsor of the bill last year, has shown support for the bill and will likely sign it if it reaches his desk.

Let’s tell Congress that we want to bring money into the country and not just bail out struggling domestic entities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No passport no problem: Visit Ohio's Key West of the North

Islands have always been an appealing escape, and Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands are no exception. Middle Bass Island has a tranquil atmosphere and refreshing natural landscape that lures visitors to its shore for carefree, relaxing getaways; conversely, South Bass Island, often referred to by its village name Put-in-Bay, offers unparalleled adventure around every corner. Kelley’s Island, the largest of the three, offers a combination of the exquisite natural beauty with a milder blend of adventure and attractions.

During the warm, muggy humid days of summer these islands take on the feel and sounds of the Florida Keys. Explore more about the Ohio’s North Coast and the Lake Erie Islands at or call 800.255.3743.

All the fun of a genuine shore vacation is closer than you think. Nearly seven million people visit the Lake Erie Shores & Islands each year, solidifying its position as one of the most appealing vacation destinations in the Midwest. From Top-Thrill coasters to unspoiled natural coastlines, the Lake Erie Shores & Islands offers year-round fun and relaxation for the whole family.

With a mainland area that spans from Vermilion, Ohio to Genoa, Ohio and inland, plus Kelleys, Middle Bass and South Bass islands, the Lake Erie Shores & Islands boasts more than 150 miles of freshwater coastline and some of the greatest attractions around:
Cedar Point amusement park offers more rides and roller coasters than any other park on the planet, and has been voted "Best Amusement Park in the World" for ten years in a row by Amusement Today readers

For the history buffs perhaps our most well known historical treasure is the 352 foot tall Perry Peace Memorial on South Bass Island. The monument was erected in the early nineteen hundreds in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s War of 1812 accomplishments. Visitors can take an elevator ride to an observation platform high above Lake Erie.

Another little known historical site is
Johnson’s Island Confederate Officers Prison Cemetery & Museum. Over 9,000 Confederate soldiers were once housed at the prison and more than 200 graves mark the site. The museum in downtown Marblehead features a scale model of the prison and many artifacts.

There are plenty of sports fishing opportunities at this self declared “Walleye Fishing Capital of the World”. Or just kick back and enjoy the miles of soft brown sandy beaches, quaint cottages and local festivals.

Nature lovers will enjoy Magee Marsh in western Ottawa County along with the nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. These venues are considered by many groups including the Audubon Society to be one of the top bird watching spots in the United States. The world’s best example of glacial carving is located on Kelley’s Island and visitors can tour the expansive Glacial Grooves.

So if you’re craving an island style getaway Ohio’s North Coast is only about 5 hours away from the Tri-State. The good news is that you do not need a passport and they speak English although with a different accent than down here on the river.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another US Virgin Island: St. Croix

A short flight or ferry ride away is St. Croix is the largest of the United States Virgin Islands – 28 miles long and seven miles at its widest point. The island lies entirely in the Caribbean Sea, with all the beauty and warmth of a tropical destination. However, it is this island’s distinct history and cultural heritage that set it apart from other Caribbean islands. St. Croix is rich in diverse history that remains alive in the architecture, national parks, historic landmarks, botanical attractions, food, music and traditions that are an integral part of island life.

One of the major features that separate St. Croix from the rest of the Virgins is the Divi Carina Bay Casino. Located on a quiet expanse of beach this property offers Caribbean eloquence along with the excitement of Vegas style gaming.

Remember that you do not need a passport to visit the Virgins. Just an official government issued photo identification card and official birth certificate are the required travel documents.

Do it all or do nothing at all! These options plus much much more abound in the United States Virgin Islands.

For more information visit islands’ tourism office at or contact your favorite travel agent/tour operator.

St Thomas USVI

The island of St. Thomas combines the natural beauty of the tropics with much of it landscape still pristine and preserved plus with an energetic, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the United States Virgin Islands, is the most visited port in the Caribbean and boasts one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. The city’s reputation as the shopping mecca of the Caribbean attracts visitors from around the world who are drawn to its elegant dining, exciting nightlife and international, duty-free shopping. The city is scattered around the harbor with plenty of narrow cobblestone streets quaint shops and cafes.

Beyond the port city you will discover a mountainous island; St. Thomas offers stunning vistas in all directions, with views of the Caribbean from 1,500 feet above sea level. Breathtaking natural wonders like magnificent Magens Bay and Drake’s Seat are also world- renowned. For the sports-minded, St. Thomas is well known for its world-class yachting and sport fishing, and welcomes golf enthusiasts to the George and Tom Fazio-designed Mahogany Run Course.

After a long day of strolling, browsing, sightseeing and/or shopping there are a few waterfront cafes where you can enjoy an adult beverage and some Caribbean inspired cuisine. Unfortunately one my favorite haunts on the harbor the Hard Rock Café has closed. Another island favorite the Mountain Top Bar world famous for their island views and Banana Daiquiris recently ceased operations due to a fire.

After a wonderful day here it’s time to head back to the cruise ship and set sail for St Croix.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

St John part of America's Caribbean playground

Purchased as a refueling stop for the Navy early in the 20th century the US Virgin Islands are one of America’s true treasures and vacation playgrounds. Often a port of call on Eastern Caribbean cruises they offer plenty of amenities and adventures for a week’s vacations.

My favorite Virgin is St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. It retains a tranquil, unspoiled beauty uncommon in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world. Settled in the early 1700’s by Danish immigrants attracted to the island’s potential as a sugar cane producing colony, St. John soon blossomed into a thriving economy. The island’s unspoiled forests and stunning beaches attracted the attention of wealthy families who sought privacy and tranquility on the island. At Trunk Bay an underwater snorkel trail with descriptive placards describes the abundant colorful fish and coral that you’ll swim through.

Cruz Bay is one of the small settlements on the island and it reminded me of something out a Hemmingway novel and a Jimmy Buffet ballad. It’s a ferry stop town with quaint shops, bars, restaurants and plenty of local characters with island charm.

I was in on a day excursion from a cruise so I couldn’t spend the night on the island but one choice of lodging would be the Gallows Point Resort. It’s a short stroll from Cruz Bay and this place offers plenty of Caribbean ambience and island style suites. What really impressed me were the incredible views available from the sleeping rooms and public areas. They also home to ZoZo’s Ristorante, one of the island’s hottest restaurants. This is an upscale resort but worth it.
My day trip is ending as it is time to catch the last ferry back over to St. Thomas and Charlotte Amalie, the capitol of the USVI. I’ll share this island’s treasures with you later.