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, April 29, 2008

Airlines to pay more cash to bumped air travelers!

Bumping is defined as denying passengers a seat on the flight they originally booked on due to a flight being oversold. They will then be `bumped' to another flight. Travelers that are forced to take another flight that arrives at their domestic destination more than two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time will be compensated for the cost of their ticket up to a maximum amount of $800.00. This sum doubles the previous amount of $400.00.

Another important change to oversold situation now extends to smaller aircraft. In the past airplanes with less than 60 seats were exempt from this legislation. This is great news for those of us that fly out of Huntington Tri-State and/or Charleston’s Yeager Field.

This action also called involuntary bumping which differs from passengers volunteering to be reaccomodated on other flights. The airlines ask for volunteers by offering alternative transportation to their destination plus they sweeten the offer with free future travel. If you find yourself in this situation be sure to check the restrictions on your free travel. I suggest that you barter for a dollar amount voucher that can be applied to the purchase cost of a new ticket. Often the “we will fly you free in the 48 mainland states” ticket comes with too many restrictions.

After the volunteer process is exhausted then the airlines will start the involuntary bumping process based on their boarding priorities. If asked the airline employees should provide you the passenger a printed copy of their denied boarding process.

As I understand it more carriers prefer the volunteer bumping process over the involuntary one. They feel that volunteer passengers are more satisfied with later transportation plus the additional compensation than involuntary bumped ones are. Also airline data on denied boarding compensation coupons should that many of these vouchers are never redeemed thereby saving the carriers.

NOTE: These new rules go into effect in the end of May 2008.

In my next post I’ll discuss some strategies to employ if you want to get bumped.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Riding DC's METRO to & from Regan-Washington National airport

Are you traveling by air into Ronald Regan Washington National airport and need to get into the heart of Washington DC’s tourist and government complex?

Ride the METRO line! It’s an easy and inexpensive journey ($1.65 each way during prime time) from the terminal to downtown DC and vice versa. Take either the Blue or Yellow lines into the city center where you can transfer onto the other routes. This photo was taken from the METRO platform so it should give you an idea of it's convenience & accessibility to DCA.

One draw to the METRO is that there is no real space to stow your luggage so travel light. Fortunately my airline partners are starting to show you all how to pack for a weekend getaway or you’ll end up paying them (the airlines) a tidy amount for that extra bag with all the spare outfits.

By combining METRO rail with the local bus service you can really extend your travel network. A few brave explorers in my group actually managed to ride this METRO combination all the way to “Mount Vernon” George Washington’s estate. So here’s another story about a wonderful day trip.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Washington DC waterfront seafood buffet

If the Pier 7 restaurant located in Washington DC’s Channel Inn does not satisfy your craving for seafood then just stroll next door to Phillips Flagship. Located on the channel Phillips Seafood is the only all you care to eat seafood buffet in the District. Their huge buffet is crammed daily with over 30 fresh seafood selections plus many other regional dishes and delicacies. You will find made-to-order stations and plenty of non-seafood options. A seafood fancier or not you’ll find something here for every palate.

Not up for the buffet then simply order from their traditional a la carte menu. Try the house specialty-jumbo lump crab cakes and enjoy the waterfront views.

The buffet runs $28.99 while a single crab cake costs $12.99 or $25.99 for two. If you enjoy excellent seafood this place definitely warrants a visit plus plan on spending a couple of hours savoring the dishes. Check out Phillips Flagship Seafood place on line at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Washington DC's Channel Inn & trip research

Traveling as group tour manager is more than just escorting your trip participants and assisting them at their destinations. In addition to your tour leadership responsibilities you may be asked to conduct research while on location.

On my last Washington DC trip I was tasked by my employer to search out and inspect a new hotel, restaurants and public transportation options. While my group travelers were enjoying the Cherry Blossom Parade I was on the Metro ( traveling to the Channel lnn, Phillips Seafood Restaurant and Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport.

We had heard good reports on the Channel Inn (, Washington’s only waterfront hotel, but nobody from our office had every stayed or visited this property. You can reach it by the Metro and it’s only about a 5 minute walk from the Waterfront stop. Located at this stop were a Safe Way grocery store and CVS pharmacy nice features in a large downtown area.

I found the hotel clean and comfortable. The lobby was richly paneled in dark wood with comfortable Queen Anne furniture and a nautical theme. Off the lobby was a quaint little coffee shop and Pier 7 a seafood restaurant offering wonderful waterfront dining. The guest rooms were nicely appointed and many had a view of the river.

This is a great hotel but not the location for people looking for the hustle & bustle of the central city. If just you're into the sights & not the nightlife and looking for a clean place affordable somewhat off the beaten path then take a look at the Channel Inn.

For reservations contact your travel agent or the Channel Inn Hotel toll free at 800.368.5668.

Check back in as there is more information on my DC research & inspections.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Desk lamps & Fairfield Inns by Marriott

I am not a brand snob when it comes to hotels. For my lodging needs I often look at price, location then the brand (so I can accumulate frequent quest or airline miles).

Last weekend I believe it was the 1st time that I had stayed at a Fairfield Inn by Marriott property. Pretty much your basic hotel, clean & comfortable, but I was awed by the desk lamp.

Many places offer you a desk/work station but this was the first time that I can recall that the desk lamp having an electrical outlet into which I could plug the charger for my laptop.

Great feature!

No crawling under the table or moving the credenza in an attempt to locate a power source.

Way to go Fairfield Inn!

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Irish pub thrives in Washington DC

Nestled next to Washington DC’s Phoenix Park Hotel a property noted for its legendary Irish hospitality is the Dubliner Pub. This public house is a Capitol Hill institution and it seems to fit right in whether it’s on Dublin’s O’Connell Street or the District of Columbia’s Massachusetts Avenue.

It’s all Irish right down to the richly wooded paneling to the friendly publican attired in a white apron, white shirt and a neck tie tucked into the buttoned up front. You’re greeted in Irish style “Ce Ad Mile Faitle” which translates into A Hundred Thousand Welcomes!

The menu offer many authentic Irish specialties like Beef Stew. This filling dish consists of choice pieces of beef, fresh garden vegetables, and hearty chunks of potatoes simmered in rich brown gravy. Another favorite is the Shepherd’s Pie, a casserole of ground sirloin, chopped onions, peas, carrots, garlic, and brown gravy then smothered with buttery smooth smashed potatoes.

A refreshing pint or two of Guinness or Smithwicks adds to the authenticity of your dining experience.

For desert be sure try the Irish Cheese Cake which incorporates Irish liquor in the traditional recipe and is served chilled with shaved chocolate garnishing the dish.

The Irish Stew, a few pints, desert and gratuity set me back about $30.00 but the experience was well worth every cent.

For more information be sure to visit:

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

DC's new baseball stadium

Baseball returned to our Nation’s capitol a few years back and this year marked the opening of the Washington Nationals new stadium.

With an evening free of sightseeing activities I decided to hop on the Metro Washington DC’s public underground transportation and catch a game. From the Harrington Hotel I walked a few blocks over to the Galley Place/Chinatown Metro station and caught the Green Line to the Navy Yard exit. Roundtrip fare for a Friday evening was $3.30 and travel time was only 7 minutes. Exit at the Navy Yard Metro station then hang a left and you have about a 500 meter stroll to Nationals Stadium.

I arrived about an hour before game time and walked right up a purchased an $18.00 ticket. My seat was located in the upper deck almost right behind home plate. OK I was out of foul ball range but the site lines were excellent.

On game days you can walk up purchase $5.00 grandstand tickets that place you in the upper deck down the left field line. I strolled over to this section and found that it’s not a bad place to watch the game from too.

As far as the interior of the stadium it really did not do anything special for me. It didn’t seem to have the charm of Baltimore’s Camden Yard or Cleveland’s Jacobs-Progressive Field. It has plenty of specialties food courts but be sure to bring plenty of money. A hot dog costs $4.00 while a 16 once Bud in an aluminum bottle runs $7.50. Curious about the actual cost I priced a 6 pack of 16 once Buds @ 5.99. Not a bad mark up!

An interested feature located in behind center field was a children’s play area and a large Play Station video game room.

The stadium is located in a distressed area of DC but I saw signs of life and redevelopment. Derelict building and warehouses were demolished to build the stadium and in a few years I expect this neighborhood to boast restaurants, clubs, shops, condos and lodging options.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DC's Cherry Blossoms

The weather gods blessed last weekend’s journey to Washington DC’s Cherry Blossom festival. Weather experts were offering predictions of a 60% chance of rain for the weekend but we were greeted with warm, breezy and sunshine filled days. There were a few sprinkles on Saturday afternoon but even this did not dampen the festive spirits in our nation’s capitol.

Our arrival was at the tail end of the cherry blossom festival but the District of Columbia was still awash in a palate of colors. All of the spring flowering trees were in bloom along with the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths which created a wonderful color splashed landscape. Especially impressive displays of color were found on Consulate grounds located on Embassy Row and within the hallowed confines of Arlington National Cemetery.

Mother Nature’s colors combined with the monuments and memorials made this a perfect time to visit the District. Add in the large number of festival participants and visitors and Washington was a very busy yet enjoyable place to be.

Anytime of the year is a great time to visit but I would definitely recommend Cherry Blossom time as the perfect time to experience this historic destination.

More on DC later!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Delta & Northwest Airlines to merge

My contacts indicate that it's a done deal. Two legacy air carriers-Delta & Northwest have agreed to merge.

Good for them but as we reduce the number of U.S. flagged carriers then we will reduce fare competition & service/flight schedules.

I believe that competition is good everywhere-in school, at work, even trying to date the high school sweetheart.

Bottom line: Less airlines, higher ticket prices.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Open top double decker sightseeing in Washington DC

There's a new sightseeing option in DC. It's an open top double decker bright red touring bus and it operates on an expanded route. Not only does it circle the National Mall museums & Arlington Cemetery but it takes you into Chinatown, Embassy Row and Georgetown.

For $28.00 you get 2 days of hop on hop off touring in our nations capital. There's a professional guide on board that provides narration and interpretations are you cruise through the city.

I'm planning on trying it out and will let you all know about this experience.

For more information visit them at or call toll free 877-332-8689.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Major league gouging

It’s the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC this weekend and I’m heading over there with a group of eager tourists.

I have some free time Friday night so I thought I’d head over to check out the Washington Nationals new baseball park & watch them play the Atlanta Braves.

My plan was to go on-line and purchase a ticket but I was blown away by the Internet add on prices. I was willing to purchase an upper deck ticket @ $18.00 but after all the extra fees my total price was $27.25. Tacked on was a $4.00 convenience fee, a $3.50 order fee plus for the privilege of printing the ticket at home (the recommended option) the fee was an additional $1.75.

According to my handy dandy pocket calculator that’s over a 50% mark up!

Guess I’m going to catch the METRO-$1.65 each way-to the park and buy my ticket the old fashioned way. Yes that’s in person standing in line at the box office ticket window.

My other gripe is that if I was paying these fees to support a human employee-the ticket office reservationists-then I might not mind as much. But to have a software program handle the transaction just doesn’t sit well with me.

I imagine that I’m just too old school.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day Lily Farm

I recently talked about visiting Spring Hill Nursey in Tipp City OH so while over in this portion of the state I decided to swing by Oxford and check out the blooms at Top O’Hill Daylily Farm. This place was started by Dr. James H. Pelley in 1951 when purchased the property and started collecting and growing award winning daylilies over 50 years ago. He has since passed but his daughter now carries on the proud family tradition of providing the most hardy, top quality daylilies at the best price. According to her the best time to visit is in mid July when the fields are in full bloom.

One of their special packages is buying daylilies by the “clump”. These “clumbs” are their award winning daylilies that are typically older cultivars and have been surviving Ohio winters for several years. Buying in clumps is the most affordable way to purchase daylilies in significant volume. Clumps will have 20 – 30 single fans, and are great for with large projects and daylily growers looking to expand their inventory of some of the true classics.

For you mail order gardeners Top O’Hill Daylily clumps sell for $25.00 per clump plus $12.00 shipping for the first clump, plus $5.00 for each additional clump.

Their inventory features over 1,600 varieties and more than 800,000 plants! The garden is open to the public May 17th through August 12th. Top O’Hill Daylily Farm is located at 4420 Oxford Trenton Road, Oxford Ohio, 45056. Contact them at 513.523.6172 or

Got travel questions? Need help with reservations? Contact

Monday, April 7, 2008

Walt Disney World's Magic Your Way Package FREE Dining Plan

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando FLA just announced a super special summer promotion. Stay a minimum of 3 nights at a Disney Resort and they will include a free Disney Dining Plan for all travelers.

The catch is that you travel between 8/24/08 – 9/20/08 and you cannot make reservations until Thursday April 10th.

If you are a Disney VISA card holder then you start making your reservations today!

Call your travel professional today and make your travel plans for your own "Make Your Magic Way at Disney World!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Skybus Airlines bankruptcy

I am (or was) a ticket holder on the now defunct Skybus Airlines and have already notified my credit card company & requested a refund.

This is the 1st time that I’ve been a ticket holder on a carrier moving into bankruptcy status so I’ll keep you all posted.

As a past seller of airline tickets most if not all of my customers were re-accommodated on other airlines but in this situation I’m not sure that Skybus has reciprocal agreements with the other airlines. Only time & the courts will sort this one out.

Discount carrier Skybus grounds itself.

Another low cost carrier-Skybus-bites the dust & shuts down operations. Their CEO filed his terminal flight plan last week then exited the airline and the rest is history.

His exit was explained as his wanting to getting involved into the book writing circuit. Hopefully in his new book he’ll talk about how he got investors involved in his company, managed to pay himself mega bucks upfront with their funds then how he hit the runway running before the dust settles!

If I go into business myself I’ll apply that same cardinal rule-pay myself first then let the little people sort out the mess that my lack of management style left them!

On site Disney resort versus off site property part 2

For a person wanting a total Disney experience then stay on site. You can travel the Disney transportation from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and beyond. An automobile is not required as you can take a shuttle from the airport then everything you need is available in the self contained Disney community. The on-site option allows you to spend your days and dollars exploring the nooks and crannies of the various theme and water parks instead of experiencing Orlando’s overwhelming traffic and hordes of tourists.

One of my favorite on-site hotels is the Caribbean Beach. It’s moderately priced and the beach setting offers a true tropical getaway. A little more budget oriented is the series of All Star Resorts while more upscale properties include the Contemporary or Polynesian Resort.

Hopefully you can see that the perfect Disney-Central Florida trip just doesn’t happen but that carefully planning is required to craft that ideal personalized getaway.

Fortunately for those Disney challenged folks there are Disney Travel Specialists available to help you arrange and schedule your trip. Like myself these local travel professionals have completed hours of study on the hotels, theme parks and attractions and then graduated from the College of Disney Knowledge. We have invested countless hours standing in lines to ride the rides, inspecting the areas restaurants and hotels. All of this so we can share this knowledge with you the Disney traveler and okay to satisfy our Disney cravings too!

One such Disney Specialist is my good friend Crystal, a travel counselor at Ironton’s AAA travel agency. She is “little Miss Disney” all the way down to the vanity license plates on her car. Ask her about Disney World and her enthusiasm bubbles over. She might know Disney better than anyone on the Disney Travel Companies payroll.

There is plenty more to experience, see and do in Central Florida. You have Universal Studios, Gatorland and within an hour or so drive is Kennedy Space Center or the Atlantic and Gulf beaches. But these are entirely different venues and another story.

Happy travels. Email your travel questions to

Friday, April 4, 2008

Disney World resorts versus off site hotels part 1

As the summer family vacation season approaches and income tax return checks filter in I thought that this would be a good time to share some thoughts on Walt Disney World vacations a favorite destination of many area residents. I have had the opportunity to travel there frequently and have stayed both on-site at Walt Disney World resort hotels plus off site at nearby Kissimmee hotels. Both location options have their pros and cons, plusses and minuses and we’ll take a look at a few of these.

I believe in the end that the type of vacation experience that you are looking for determines which option to select. Simply put either an on site property or off site one.

You (or your travel professional) need to ask and answer some questions like do I want to spend all of my time on Disney property? Do I want to be mobile and explore the area? How much does cost over convenience mean to me? Do you mind traveling from your hotel and paying for daily parking at Disney?

These are only a few questions that you or a seasoned travel planner should ask. After all we are trying to get a concrete vision of your vacation preferences and then select the appropriate features.

Off-site hotels/motels are generally the least expensive route to go. Add in Disney tickets and you’ve created your Disney package. A major downside to staying here is the travel time, traffic situation and daily parking fees. If you tire out at the parks then you need to hop in your car, fight traffic and return to your room. Upside is that you’re mobile and not stuck paying every dollar to everything Disney.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Grocery shopping in the Disney area

With our Orlando condo equipped with a full kitchen a trip to the local Winn-Dixie grocery store was in order. I was blown away at the prices here-talk about resort area sticker shock! We purchased a few staples but being mobile and familiar with the area we headed about 10-15 miles of the Disney Resort area and completed our purchases at a Haines City FLA Super Wal-Mart.

The prices here were much more in line with what I’m used to seeing in the local Tri-State stores.

Theme parks were not part of this itinerary but I’ll share my thoughts on staying on-site at Disney compared to staying at an off-site hotel/motel/resort.